State's largest senior center serves thousands daily in Dover.

Q&A: Carolyn Fredricks, President and CEO, Modern Maturity Center

As the Modern Maturity Center celebrates 50 years, president Carolyn Fredricks reflects on how the center as changed and why it’s important to serve the older population in Kent County.

She started at the center 47 years ago as a volunteer, visiting shut-ins in their homes. She became the executive director in 2000.

She said MMC is now the largest senior center in the state, with about 7,500 lives touched. 

How did you start at the Modern Maturity Center? Why did you decide to take on the position of executive director?

I started at MMC because I had a love for older adults and wanted to assure they were receiving benefits and services to allow them to live independently. It seemed like when I was at the store shopping, if an older adult needed some help they would always ask me to assist. Now that I am that older adult, I really appreciate when someone asks if they can help lift something heavy or load my car at Lowe's. Although older adults like to remain independent sometimes they may need a little assistance.

 

The position of executive director seemed like what I needed to do.  I had held several positions at MMC and still had a passion for serving older adults.  My history with the center is long, and I felt my devotion to the clients we serve and my passion to continually improve what we do for others made me the appropriate person for the position.

 

You first started working with the nutrition program. What does it mean to you, and how has it grown in the last 50 years?

MMC sponsors many programs that are important to older adults, but I feel one of the most important is our nutrition program. First, it provides Meals on Wheels, which allows an older person to remain independent and in their home environment as long as possible. It has been proven the quality of life is much improved when the person is in their home. They live longer and are more content. Secondly, the nutrition program provides for meals at most of the senior centers in Kent County. This program encourages socialization because they come in for the meal and then participate in various activities.

 

When we started in 1973, we used the kitchen at St. Joseph’s school and the program was very small. Today we have a state-of-the-art kitchen at the center and prepare about 1,600 meals a day. As people age in place we expect that program to continue to grow. We are planning for that growth with our kitchen expansion and the purchase of new kitchen equipment.

 

How do you describe the center’s transformation?

The transformation of MMC has been huge over the years. Starting at the house at 2 S. Bradford St, moving to Greenhill Avenue and then five construction projects on Forrest Avenue, we are continually looking to grow to meet the need for services. Staffing has gone from about 10 to over 225 employees. In fact, MMC was just selected as the large employer of the year by the Kent County Chamber of Commerce. We have a wonderful staff who are all very devoted to the center and the clients we serve.

 

What do you envision for its future?

Our dream is to remain on the cutting edge of services for older adults. While we want to continue to provide programs and services for independent older adults, we feel an increased emphasis on services for caregivers, those suffering from mild memory loss and those who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Of course we must continue to  recruit volunteers to help us accomplish our mission. We could not provide the services we provide if we did not have a fantastic core of volunteers helping in all phases of our center. As the older population continues to grow, the MMC pledges to research, expand programs and services and strive to be the best we can be for the older adults of Kent County.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

History of MMC

Now an expansive building with recreation space, a chapel, exercise room, pool, fitness center and much more, the Modern Maturity Center on Forrest Avenue has flourished.

Started by a group of volunteers who wanted to fill a void for Dover’s aging population, it has grown into the largest senior center in Delaware.

The center’s president, Carolyn Fredericks, described MMC as a resource and activity center for anyone over 50 years old, no matter their level of independence.

A brief timeline of the center’s life as it reaches its own golden years:

March 10, 1969: The official incorporation of the Modern Maturity Center. 1970: The founders bought 2 South Bradford Street. In 1971, they had 80 members and an average daily attendance of 15. 1973: The Mature Adult Neighborhood Nutrition program began in Kent County. Volunteers cooked more meals for seniors every year, quickly outgrowing their kitchens. 1976: They bought 18 Greenhill Avenue, which they expanded to include a second story in 1980. 1984: The board of directors approved buying 10 acres on Forrest Avenue: the new and current site of MMC. 1988: The MANNA program served meals to more than 1,200 people daily at the Greenhill location and delivered by Meals on Wheels. 1989: MMC became the largest senior center in the state with 25 full-time staff members and an average daily attendance of 217. 1990: The basic building as you know it today was finished. A big highlight was the expansion of parking spaces from 70 to 250. 1999: In honor of their 30th anniversary, MMC added a 28,000 square-foot annex, including an expanded adult day care center, pool and fitness center. 2003: The center started their own transportation program with a state grant. The Hope Medical Clinic opened at MMC. 2005: Construction began for the MMC Medical Building, a 10,000 square-foot space to offer health care. The building opened in 2006 and expanded more in 2010. 2011: An early memory loss program, called “Front Porch,” began. 2018: An addition to the kitchen was completed. 2019: 50th anniversary festivities included a March dinner dance and a gala in October where they raised more than $215,000 for older adult programs. More than 800 volunteers served at MMC this year.

 Upcoming Events at MMC

Thanksgiving Feast Thursday, Nov. 21, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., $8 suggested donation for those 60 and older and $9 for those under 60. Pay for dinner upon arrival. The Fruitcake Follies holiday show, Dec. 3, 4, 5, buffet dinner at 6 p.m. and show at 7 p.m., advanced ticket sales only; visit the center or call 302-734-1200. Holiday Craft Vendor Festival Saturday, Nov. 30, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., admission is a donation of five perishable food items, which will go to a food pantry that distributes in Kent County; more than 60 exhibitors will sell crafts and goods for holiday shopping. New Year’s Eve Celebration Tuesday, Dec. 31, doors open at 7 p.m. with dinner at 7:30 p.m., dancing from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.; $35 per person, includes dinner, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight. Entertainment by the band the Honeycombs. Call or visit for tickets.