Hometown Hero: Seniors continue to flourish following the merger of the Penacook Community Center and the Concord Boys and Girls Club 

Former intergenerational outreach coordinator Kristen Pinard-Kenney,  center, laughs with the women from the senior center who have known each other for more than 20 years as they play a dice game at the Penacook Historical Society on Thursday.

Former intergenerational outreach coordinator Kristen Pinard-Kenney, center, laughs with the women from the senior center who have known each other for more than 20 years as they play a dice game at the Penacook Historical Society on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 11-05-2023 3:18 PM

Before the Penacook Community Center closed last year, Kristen Pinard-Kenney was the intergenerational outreach coordinator, working to bridge the generation gap through activities in an official capacity.

She doubled as the senior program director at the PCC for 10 years. In short, she dedicated a large piece of her life to enriching the lives of older people, in part by introducing them to students in the intergenerational program and having the two groups mix and create a better understanding of one another.

These days, with the PCC now under the umbrella of the Concord Boys and Girls Club and its Penacook building torn down, those programs no longer exist, so Pinard-Kenney has set out on her own and works independently.

“I did not want to leave our seniors without somewhere to go,” Pinard-Kenney said. “Over the years, we gathered in different places and we’re still doing that.”

Her loyalty to seniors is why her daughter, Madyn Kenney, nominated her mother for Hometown Hero recognition.

“While the group has grown beyond the core few that started her journey at the PCC, she still maintains relationships with all of the seniors who attended and still attend the activities she organizes,” Kenney wrote. “She goes above and beyond lending a hand where needed and being a comfort during the end of life.”

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Pinard-Kenney has focused her career on altruistic endeavors. She’s been working at Southern New Hampshire University as a social sciences adjunct instructor for six years, teaching online courses in psychology, human services and social sciences.

In the past, she was the director of social services at Hanover Hill Health Care Center, managing aging issues like Alzheimer’s, and she worked at the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, providing individual psychotherapy, addiction assessment and homeless outreach.

Those jobs, plus her education at Keene State College, told Pinard-Kenney in which direction to move.

For the past nine years, she served as the intergenerational outreach coordinator at the PCC, connecting child care and senior programs with schools and other local groups. She was also the senior program director at the center, as elders have become a vital ingredient in her life.

“I realized my passion was that I love working with seniors,” Pinard-Kenney said. “They are fun, funny, caring, and they have so much history and knowledge to share.”

During COVID, Pinard-Kenney called the seniors, stuck at home, that she had befriended at the PCC. “Just to see how they were doing,” she said.

Phone calls that lasted five or 10 minutes at the start expanded to two hours or more after a few months. During holidays, Pinard-Kenney made goodie bags and delivered them to mailboxes and front steps “so they would know that someone cared,” Pinard-Kenney said.

She dressed up as the Easter Bunny and knocked on the doors of the seniors who had become close friends.

“Sometimes you don’t think about people who do not have contacts,” Pinard-Kenney said.

Her intergenerational program featured the merging of two very different worlds. During one activity, high school students cooked and a panel of seniors judged the food. Pre-schoolers and seniors enjoyed the Audubon Society together, and her Buddy Bingo program earned a national award.

She organized lunches, craft seminars and yoga and didn’t skip a beat when the PCC and the Concord Boys and Girls Club merged last year, eliminating the senior programs. The new building is scheduled to open next year, at the site of the old PCC on Community Drive in Penacook.

Following the merger, Pinard-Kenney formed her own unofficial entity, for adults 55 and older, and called it The Good Life Program, continuing the activities she had promoted for nearly 10 years.

About 20 individuals take advantage of Pinard-Kenney’s fledgling institution, many of whom have known each other for decades and have strong roots in the Penacook and Boscawen areas.

“It’s mostly married couples and the rest are women who have lost their husbands,” Pinard-Kenney said. “These are people who have been friends forever. The program has been formally retired, but all these wonderful people have been an extension of my family.”