St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center (SMSC).

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center (SMSC) was created in 1966 by the Religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart. It was originally designed for preschool children with developmental disabilities and began with one classroom and eight children. In 1975, the Lanterman Act mandated that the public school system assume responsibility for training children with special needs. Shortly thereafter, SMSC transitioned its services to meet the needs of adults with developmental disabilities. While children with disabilities have access to care and services through the school system, adults are often a forgotten group.

Over the years, SMSC has continued to enhance and expand its programs; welcoming a growing number of adult students. Today, they serve approximately 410 adults with developmental disabilities (e.g. autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other cognitive disorders). With several individuals having attended SMSC for over 40 years, this “Life Program” has been proven to meet the needs of adults with developmental disabilities as they progress from recent high-school graduates to seniors.

With the recognition that Individuals with developmental disabilities are enjoying an increased life expectancy, SMSC opened its Senior Program in 2000. This program was the first of its kind in San Diego County to offer retirement-oriented programs to senior-age adults with developmental disabilities. Over the years this program has grown exponentially and now serves 18% of the organization’s total enrollment. SMSC’s Senior Program can be compared to a liberal arts university as the program offers students classes and activity areas that include art, music, exercise and more. The center focuses on providing a safe environment that is conducive to the discovery of recreational alternatives, the improvement of an individual’s leisure skills, enhancement of the retirement experience for the senior population, and volunteer opportunities to allow participants to contribute back to the community.

The Senior Program is currently located in a building on SMSC’s 6-acre campus which houses the kitchen/cafeteria, restrooms and a large multi-purpose room. Unfortunately, this space suffers from physical limitations and is not conducive to the unique social and supervision needs of senior citizens with developmental disabilities.

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center is in the midst of a Capital Campaign, ‘Building for Future Innovations’ which projects include a solar energy system, building improvements, the newly opened Aquatics Center and a dedicated Senior Center. With establishing a dedicated Senior Center, SMSC’s students can benefit from:

– A separate lunch room
– Separate class and activity areas for art, music, exercise areas and more
– Shaded outdoor space and patios
– Restrooms closer to program space
– Railings in hallways for clients with limited vision or unsteady gait
– Transportation access closer to the entrance of the building

While the new Senior Center is now in the planning phases, with topography and architectural plans in the works, SMSC is looking for support from members of the community who believe in the mission and future of the organization. With their assistance SMSC can continue to provide a “Life Program” to a population that may not have family to care for them.