Senior Center director reflects on career, changes in Rochester

Aug 12, 2019

ROCHESTER — Senior Center Director Sharon Lally is going out on a high note, retiring after 14 years in the director’s chair at what she calls “the best job I’ve ever had.”

In her time at the helm, she took over with a new building, built up the Senior Center’s activities, earned accreditation and began planning and fundraising for an adult daycare center. 

Lally has always felt that she “kinda had an old soul,” and connected with her parents’ tenants when they ran a rooming house. Still, starting at a nursing home was not easy for her at first. She hated the smells, walkers and wheelchairs everywhere. Eventually, though, she “fell in love with the people.”

Lally worked as an activities director at a kosher nursing home for 14 years, while also going to school for a master’s in Gerontology. After that, she worked at five Councils on Aging, though she has been at the Rochester Council on Aging longest.

14 years ago, she was living in Lakeville and commuting to Needham. “It was a heaven coming here after doing that commute,” she said. 

Lally added that she “was hired to make a change,” in Rochester, as there was very little going on in new building when she arrived.

“I credit the breakfast program [for much of the change]. It brought a lot of people in,” Lally said. The program (started when the popular breakfast spot Town Pizza closed), exposed many seniors to other activities at the Senior Center.

“At first we had all this space and nothing to do. Now we have things to do with not enough space, ” said Lally, to describe the proliferation of programs. She said she had hoped to add programs with pets (which are currently not allowed at the senior center), and specialized hobbies like ceramics or woodworking, which are difficult or impossible to set up and take down in an hour. 

Lally also hoped to get the Senior Daycare program, for older seniors who might need more care during the day, up and running before she left. The Rochester Senior Center currently busses seniors who want to participate in those programs to Fairhaven.

Still, Lally said “Rochester is a very special town,” adding that she has “wonderful people that surround me. My part-time staff makes me look good, My volunteers, I’d be nothing without those people”

After she retires on Aug. 31, Lally hopes to travel more, get more involved in retirement community where she lives and take up crafts and other hobbies of hers. “I’m never bored,” she said. 

“Thank you to the community for the warm welcome, including me and accepting the senior center,” Lally said. She added that she will miss her seniors and community, and will be back to visit.