Greenwood center finds new Avenues to reach out to 'new wave' of seniors

The Greenwood Senior Center (GSC) is moving in a new direction. No longer focused solely on the elderly, it has a new program that is expanding beyond the term "senior" to the 50-and-older crowd.

The program, called Avenues, has a dual meaning, expressing both the new mindset, as well as the locations of the center (525 N. 85th St.) near Greenwood Avenue North and its parent organization, the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA), on Phinney Avenue North.

"We're committed to growing and evolving our center to adapt to the changing senior community," said GSC director Cecily Kaplan. "We're recognizing the difference in the term 'senior.' Some of our members are still very active, still working and can't take classes during the weekdays."

Becoming a community resource

The new schedule is the biggest change, Kaplan said. While the center previously ended classes and events at 4:30 p.m., hours are now extended on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To entice the "new wave" of seniors, Avenues offers a spiced-up schedule of classes including Spanish, Pilates, tai chi, computers, Art Journaling and watercolor painting. Along with the new, "fun" classes, the center has also added an Aging Parent Concerns support group, led by a professional social worker, designed for adults caring for elderly parents.

The support group is yet another way the GSC hopes to branch out into the community.

"We want to be a resource, as well as a place for seniors," Kaplan said.

Avenues will be one way the center can reach this goal. By providing more modern classes with relevant issues such as aging parents and early retirement, the program will only improve, she said.

The PNA has been a main contributor to the improvements at the Greenwood center. With more peo-ple, resources and space, the partnership has allowed the senior center to not only stay afloat but to expand. The center already has plans in the works for a couples-massage course and a home-remodeling class aimed at helping seniors to live in their homes for as long as possible.

Renovations for the center itself are also on the list, including a café-style dining room.

Running on volunteer power

In addition to fund raising, economic support comes primarily from within the center itself. Although many services are provided free to the community, the center charges for the new classes, with members receiving discounts.

To keep prices down, employees have staffed much of the program themselves - switching from daytime-hours-only to working nights and weekends.

"We're hoping to get a receptionist once Avenues takes off," Kaplan said. "Right now, we can't afford it, so we each take turns acting as receptionist and in our regular positions."

The center employs two full-time and three part-time staff members, with volunteers picking up the slack to keep costs minimal for the 360 members.

People from the community work alongside staff to keep the kitchen up and running by washing dishes, cooking lunches and working special events. "We've got a great group of wo-men who come in and give up their time," said program director Molly Kimmel. "They keep this place going."

Additionally, the GSC has also come up with a small side business selling handmade soaps and lotions through the Aunt Bea's product line. Named after the product developer, also a GSC member, the group sells its products at farmers markets and fairs with all proceeds benefiting the center.

Revenue is also generated through space rental for tango lessons, group meetings and other special events.


For now, Kaplan is happy with the program's results. Despite harsh weather conditions, the first Aging Parent Concerns meeting attracted 10 people, with several more showing interest.

"We've been more than pleased at the turnout," Kaplan said. "There's no waiting list [for classes] yet, but we've made our first step, and it was successful. We need to change slowly, learn what's working and what's not, and we will continue to evaluate the program."

Community member Claire Dris-coll attends the Conversational Spanish classes, one of the more popular in the Avenues program. Although not ready to become a full-fledged member, she appreciates the center's efforts to "go beyond the normal audience" and provide fun classes.

Even though there hasn't been a huge response, Driscoll believes the program is in early stages and will ultimately be successful.

"Right now, it's just the start," she said. "They just need to stick with it. It will take time, like all things do, but they just have to keep going."[[In-content Ad]]