Boston treats elders to a New Year’s Eve party all their own

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BOSTON – Snowflakes magically fell onto elders who filed into Boston’s World Trade Center Wednesday and entered an exhibition hall packed with tables offering celebratory New Year’s Eve hats and noisemakers. A barbershop quartet provided music for dancing and general conviviality.

“This is the hottest event in town!” said Emily Shea, Boston’s commissioner for elder affairs. She said many of those who attended bolted for the best seats as they entered the hall.

Mayor Marty Walsh joined the crowd of 2,300 from across the city to ring in the New Year, including a prelude to Thursday’s midnight countdown that led to the stroke of noon instead. The 19th annual party, hosted by the nearby Seaport Hotel, featured a turkey dinner and was made possible by donations from the hotel, the Yankee Line bus company, Boston Public Schools and the Walgreens pharmacy chain.

“I think it’s great what they do for seniors,” said John Healey, 69, from South Boston. He said it was his second year attending the event. “It gives them a chance to go out and meet new friends.”

Anne Holley, 72, from Roslindale, said the event is very beneficial for elders and gives them a reason to get out of the house and have a hot meal.

“It’s good accompanied with the music,” Holley said. “It brings back good memories. You can remember the things from back then.”

As for the ice and snow that made it harder for some to attend, Holley said he organizers did a good job of overcoming that issue by getting 52 buses to help bring participants from different parts of the city where pick-up and drop-off sites were set up.

“A lot of people don’t have transportation,” said Holley, adding that walking on snow- and ice-slicked pavement can be a risky endeavor for many.

Elizabeth Van Der Snoek, 85, from Jamaica Plain, who has attended the event six different years, said the one thing missing this time was coffee. But she enjoyed meeting the people who also sat at her table.

“I think it’s nice for the people to get out,” Van Der Snoek said. “They have nothing else to look forward to.”

Elba Pacheco, 65, from Jamaica Plain, said the organizers should give out certificates or make it more interactive for participants.

“I think we should do something to make us move more and make us alive,” said Pacheco, who was waiting to say hello to Walsh. “Something more than just sitting down and eating.”

Walsh made his rounds, stopping at tables to say hello and pose for photos. The mayor described the event as special because elders “are truly the heart of this city.”

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