Sherry Norman Takes Norfolk Senior Center Reins

Grace Allen
Sherry Norman, the new director of the Norfolk Senior Center.
Issue Date: 
February, 2019
Article Body: 

Visitors to the Norfolk Senior Center will see a new face behind the director’s desk.
Sherry Norman took over the job held by Christine Quinn on November 26, but area seniors may recognize her from her stints as the SHINE counselor at Wrentham’s senior center, and assistant director and outreach counselor at Plainville’s senior center.
A little more than two months into the job, Norman says it’s been an easy transition so far.
“Everyone has been wonderful and welcoming,” she said.
Norman is tasked with planning, organizing, and implementing programs for Norfolk seniors. Her goal, she said, is to support local seniors by providing opportunities for them to be independent and safe, ideally in their own homes, as long as possible.
“Seniors tend to do better in some sort of space that lets them connect with other people,” she explained. “The more supports you provide around that the longer people are going to live healthy lives and age in place. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Norman’s first priority is to survey the town’s 60-plus population and ask them what types of programs and assistance from the senior center they’d like to see. She’d also like to reach out to community groups and partner with them on various projects.
Another priority is simply to let the community know what’s available at the senior center.
“We really see our mission as to the community as a whole,” Norman said. “Sometimes people don’t even know to call us for the resources we can provide, until they or their family member is in crisis. Yes, we play Bingo and knit, but we also do a lot more than that.”
According to recent data, Norfolk’s aging population is one of the fastest growing in the area. The Health and Social Services Consortium, Inc. (HESSCO) of South Norfolk County projects the 2020 census will show Norfolk’s population will have doubled in the 65-74, 75-84, and 85-plus age categories.
This explosive growth in older residents will present challenges, noted Norman, who said one of her long range goals is to help Norfolk become an age-friendly community.
“If it’s a livable, friendly community for seniors then it is a livable and friendly community for everyone,” she said.
Norman has had a rich and varied career path. She attended UMass Boston as an undergraduate, and then received her master’s degree in counseling education from Northeastern University. She was the director of activities at Northeastern before going into human resources at Hasbro. She transitioned into senior services by volunteering and working in various capacities in the area, including in Plainville, where she has lived for the past 17 years.
“Like Madonna, I reinvent myself every ten years,” Norman quipped. “It looks like very different jobs but it’s basically the same job with different populations: college students, employees, and seniors. It’s all about providing resources and programs and being an advocate, so for me it makes perfect sense. And as I grew up I aged with my clientele.”
The 63-year-old Norman acknowledges the difficulties in trying to provide activities and resources for a population group that ranges from age 60 to 100-plus. Trying to be all things to all people is a challenge, but she finds seniors to be the most grateful age group she has ever worked with.
“Seniors are appreciative for all you do for them, especially the active older adults that are still ambulatory and engaged. And one might argue they are ambulatory because they are engaged socially, physically, and emotionally,” she pointed out. “That’s what it’s about in terms of longevity, largely. You play the hand you’re dealt genetically but it’s about staying mentally and socially connected.”
Norman has tried to meet as many people in town as she can, both in and out of the senior center. It’s not unusual for her to take one of the center’s classes alongside her clientele, both to meet residents and to assess the class itself. She has put a focus on health and safety at the center, and one of her first actions as director was to get the staff trained in CPR.
She would also like to re-introduce some sort of meal service, noting that people tend to socialize around food. Currently, occasional meals are sponsored offsite by the Friends of the Council on Aging, a volunteer group that supports the senior center.
Norman was one of fourteen candidates to apply for the director’s job, said Council on Aging Chairperson Debbie Grover, who was on the interview committee.
“There were some really good candidates, but Sherry just knocked it out of the park,” said Grover. “She brings authentic passion and a desire to make a difference. She’s organized, she’s a planner, she’s an executor, and she does what she says she’s going to do. I just think our seniors are in good hands now.”
Norman believes her biggest challenge will be to put her own stamp on the program. Christine Quinn, whose tenure as director lasted only two years, took over from Norma Shruhan, who had been the senior center’s director for close to thirty years. Those were big shoes for Quinn to fill, acknowledged Norman.
“Change is hard,” she said. “It can be tough to manage transitions, but the ice has been broken. I’m happy to be here. So come on in and introduce yourself and let us know how we can serve you.”