The Gift That Keeps Improving the Lives of Detroit’s Senior Citizens

It began with a gift.

William H. Hannan, founder of the Hannan Real Estate Exchange, passed away in 1917 and left his sizable estate to his widow Luella Hannan to “be bequeathed to such charities for the people of Detroit as she should appoint.”

Within five years, Luella Hannan incorporated the Luella Hannan Memorial Home (later changed to Foundation) with the goal to “found, build, and maintain a home for aged or infirm persons of the City of Detroit who have been accustomed to enjoying the comforts of life, but who through change of fortune, have come to reduced circumstances.”

For nearly 100 years, Luella Hanna Memorial Foundation has served Detroit to ensure that seniors are respected, valued and empowered to reach their potential and connected to a community of their choice.

Extensive programming at the Hannan Center helps older adults age with grace, and classes offered through “Beyond U” exemplify this outreach. These classes range from fitness programs, such as yoga, to art and other unique learning opportunities.

Through its partnership with Comerica Bank, seniors can take six financial literacy classes that feature sessions specific to the needs of elder Detroiters.

Vincent Tilford, President & CEO of the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation, explained that both partners discussed the impact of structuring financial empowerment sessions in a way that met more of the needs of people who are retired. The class sizes also make it easier for seniors to ask questions that they might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking.

“As we all age, people think that we are invisible,” said Tilford. “People think that your mental or cognitive faculties are in decline, your body’s in decline. And while certainly, you know, one can see an association between aging and all those conditions, it’s not true for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be.”

In a Jan. 18 Identity Theft workshop, participants learned about methods used by identity thieves to steal personal information and how to protect themselves. It explained what personal information is at risk and the red flags to watch out for with regards to common identity scams.

This information is valuable because while identity theft and fraud can strike people of all ages, senior citizens may be particularly vulnerable for several reasons. Seniors are more likely to have greater savings and good credit scores, which makes them attractive targets, according to the Equifax and the FBI.

A similar workshop addresses the ways that older adults can often become targets of criminals wanting to exploit and steal hard-earned resources. This workshop examines the various types of financial exploitation and how seniors can protect themselves from becoming a victim.

Additionally, participants explore reasons why people experience debt and the most common types of debt. This program dives into debt management strategies such as loan consolidation, budgeting, and debt management plans. Participants compare various debt management solutions and create a personal plan about how to manage personal debt.

Another class focuses on budgeting and how seniors learn to understand the value of creating a budget and develop strategies to build a simple budget and pay off debt. The purpose is to provide insights on core habits to practice maintaining financial health.

With the small class sizes and quality of topics, the workshops continue to present opportunities for engagement.

“So one of the things that older people are certainly most afraid of and are guarded about is how are people going to perceive me? If I ask a question? Are they going to think I’m not able to handle my finances? You know, are they going to think less of me?” Tilford said.

“I think it’s just a vicious cycle of ageism in our society, we get bombarded with those messages in all of our lives is the only ism that is socially acceptable. And we all do it. We all make jokes about it, and we don’t realize the harm that it causes.”

Hannan Center offers even more than these financial literacy classes. There are fine art and performing art classes.

“Through our fine arts classes, we help seniors to exhibit within not only our gallery but some of them have gone to exhibit and other galleries and sell their art,” said Tilford. “Then we have classes on the social work side, and we try to support older adults who may be having some challenges.”

He adds, “What we’re really trying to do is to improve their self-agency, and give them the tools so that they can be better advocates for themselves. A lot of our work is around not only supporting seniors, but also getting seniors and people to interact with them to see that.”

Tilford finished by saying, “Working with older adults. It’s not something that’s sexy. No one wants to get old. No one wants to think about being old. But if we’re all lucky, we’re going to get there one day and organizations like Hannan are here to help.”

For those in need or for those who would like to support, visit the Hannan Center website at and social media channels or call (313) 833-1300. Offices are located 4750 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201.

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