By Donna Rule
When you hear Fair Park Senior Center, what is your first thought? Do you picture older people (who are much older than you, of course) sitting around playing bingo? If that is what you see, it is time to update your vision.
With the growing number of older adults, today's senior center is not what it used to be. Although September was National Senior Center Month — with the theme "It Happens at My Senior Center: My Life, My Time, My Way" — now is a great time to get to know Fair Park Senior Center.
So what are senior centers? Senior centers are organizations recognized by the Older Americans Act (OAA) as a community focal point and have become one of the most widely used services among America's adults. Today, nearly 11,000 senior centers serve one million adults each day. Senior centers also serve as a gateway to the nation's aging network — connecting older adults to vital community services that can help them stay healthy and independent. Not only that, each senior center itself offers a host of programs and services to its participants each day, such as information and assistance; health, fitness and wellness programs; transportation services; volunteer and civic engagement opportunities; social, recreational and educational programs; arts and crafts; meals and nutrition programs; and much more.
Fair Park Senior Center is the only senior center in Cumberland County that is established under the Older Americans Act. The center started in 1973 as a one-room facility in a downtown building and is currently a modern 7,000-square foot building with room for all mandated programs plus kitchen and dining space to allow for hot meals daily. Fair Park is now outgrowing this facility due to the amount of diverse programming being offered and is regularly holding programs at various off-site locations within the county.
Fair Park has also been recognized on district, state and national levels for its excellence in programming, and its executive director, Peggy Houston, also serves as Tennessee's delegate to the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC). Fair Park currently serves approximately 4,000 participants each year.
Volunteers play an active and vital role in the daily life of the center. Currently, there are approximately 110 volunteers, ages 60 and older, who have provided 9,300 hours of service.
Did you know that according to recent statistics, as the year 2011 began, the oldest members of the Baby Boom Generation celebrated their 65th birthday? In fact, on that day, today and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65.
Because of the impact of this growing older population, today's senior centers, including Fair Park Senior Center, are busily reinventing themselves to meet the needs and desires of the aging Baby Boom Generation. For example, programs like computer training connect seniors to the Internet, family and friends. Specialized fitness programs, such as Healthway's SilverSneakers group exercise classes, allow seniors to remain healthy, active and connected to their peers.
As more and more older adults join their local senior centers, new and exciting ideas to help everyone stay healthy, educated and active come to light and grow. Visit Fair Park Senior Center today — be involved in designing your future.