The Forest Grove Senior Center is a typical type senior center where older adults spend time socializing, quilting or volunteering at tasks such as washing breakfast dishes for the Lions Club. An hour away, in east Vancouver, The Firstenburg Community Center has sewing but down the hall, toddlers romp in the day-care area, mothers bob in a water aerobics class, and teens on summer break scale Sadri's Summit, a rock climbing wall. The two centers could not be more different, or representative, of past and present attitudes about leisure time of those 55 and older. Across the Portland metropolitan area, senior centers are revamping in preparation for the aging baby boomers and their redefinition of retirement.
A major trend in this revamping is the idea of multigenerational centers. In 2006, Vancouver opened a giant $21.1 million multigenerational center that offers recreation and social opportunities for all ages. In Oregon, the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District and Lake Oswego both want to build similar centers if voters approve funding. The movement parallels concerns of Washington County and city leaders, keenly aware of their aging constituency. The county's Department of Health and Human Services projects the number of residents age 65 and older will more than double, from 42,985, or 8 percent of the population, in 2005 to 101,302, or 14 percent of the population, in 2025.
Some senior centers don't seem to think the varying age groups will tolerate being forced to mingle. Others see the current activities of the baby boomers, which at times are the same as the "youngsters", and are looking to be ready for them. Baby boomers in particular tend to fight the notion of getting older, but depending on budget and community involvement, it can be difficult to get support for these new multigenerational centers. Forest Grove is dragged down by a lack of senior interest and few public dollars while Tualatin Hills' tax-supported Elsie Stuhr Center in Beaverton bursts with so many people and activities that the district long ago acknowledged the need for another center. This new center could be a multigenerational center because of the cost efficiency and social benefits.
Traditional senior centers still carry a certain bridge playing, quilt making, rocking-chair stigma. Some seniors are still very much interested in that type of an environment but as things move forward the new seniors are going to demand more choices and it could only be to everyone's benefit to be ready for that. For now there are going to be those who don't see Pilates as a senior citizen activity. For smaller, struggling centers, such thinking threatens existence and sidelines any thoughts of erecting an expensive multigenerational center. It's hard to argue the need for a new site when the current ones are getting no use. The struggling facilities really need to update the current locations first and it's programs. Once they start getting used the funding will be there, people will see it's need.
Boomers don't necessarily want to hang with teenagers, but many may not want to take a bridge class, either. Conversely teenagers might not necessarily jump at the chance to hang around retirees, on the other hand, you can't deny the convenience for families to have all their activities located in one building. Vancouver's Firstenburg center shows how it works. The sprawling 80,000-square-foot, two-story building provides breathing room to every age group. Every new idea draws resistance at first but eventually you can't deny the social, economical and convenience benefits.
PLEASE CHECK OUT OUR NEW PODCAST ON THE HOMEPAGE OF OUR WEBSITE www.TonyandLibby.com