Change Bend's Senior Center to be more welcoming

Patty Rosen /

Over the past few years, I’ve been a frequent visitor to our senior center. In those years I’ve seen a few changes in administration and in the dynamics of the attending seniors. The recent hullabaloo between the United Senior Citizens of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District caught my attention because of the complaints and the inability for some folks to talk with the park board in a productive way.

Until everyone in charge can calmly talk out their frustrations, I would like to make a couple of points: First, the only programs that seem to have gone missing, that I noticed, that were well attended, are the twice monthly Sunday Bingo game and the daily lunches. Many seniors, with limited mobility, attended both of these activities and both are taking place in other venues.

Which brings me to my other point: I don’t think the problem with attendance at the senior center is related to the age of those attending, as suggested by USCB, but more related to the physical ability of some seniors and their capability to get to the senior center. For less-mobile seniors there are programs: book discussion, many choices of cards and games and knitting and rug hooking, just to name a few. For active seniors, there are too many classes and activities to name. Why? For starters, active seniors usually drive, so they can easily get to the senior center. It’s also because active seniors want to stay active. They want classes that will enhance and support their physical and emotional well-being. Many classes for these seniors are filled to capacity.

Most of us who visit the senior center know that the building has several design flaws: Very high ceilings and small cut up rooms that make heating and cooling the place a nightmare. The layout is poorly planned so it is crowded in the back and empty in the front. The kitchen is huge and fully equipped but seldom used, and several other rooms are so small that their use is limited. Lastly, but most importantly, the front entrance lacks a feeling of warmth, that wonderful feeling you get when you walk into a place that is inviting. This is not the fault of the friendly, personable staff. This is not the fault of anyone. It is what happens when a building is architecturally planned and then reality hits when it is opened and it just doesn’t work.

Personally, I would love to walk into a main meeting room that is cozy, yet expansive, always open and always welcoming. Perhaps warm and cold drinks could be available. I’d love small tables with comfortably padded chairs to sit in (they currently have couches but those can be a devil to get up from), public computers, and Wi-Fi at the ready. Maybe even have some soft, age-appropriate music playing in the background, music that causes us to pause because it’s familiar and fills us with memories that make us feel good. And yes, it would have to be soft enough so that it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s ability to hear.

I look forward to the day when our senior center is the place to go, not for an activity or class, but solely for the purpose to meet friends for a cup of coffee, to work on a computer, perhaps work a puzzle, to chat, or to meet before a walk in the beautiful surrounding park.

Everyone who uses the senior center must help it grow and change. Not by being critical and finding fault but by offering ideas for new and innovative ways of doing things. It is up to us, the seniors in Bend, to help “our” place continue to grow and change.

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