Thirty years later, with the current center bursting at the seams, it’s time for another state-of-the-art building that is sure to be a hit with seniors.
The city broke ground in October on a new $13 million, 33,000 square-foot building in Idle Hour Park off Richmond Road near Southland Christian Church.
The building will occupy four of the 22 acres at the park and will be surrounded by green space and walking trails. A youth football field will be moved to accommodate the building.
Construction is expected to last 15 months with a tentative opening date of spring 2016.
The new building will double the size of the current center and will include a fitness studio with weights, an exercise room with a floating floor, two large classrooms, two art studios, a multi-purpose room with a stage, a café with outside seating, and outdoor facilities for horse shoes, volleyball and badminton.
WiFi, tablets and laptops also will be available.
“It says a lot for a community that is willing to invest so much time and money to construct a senior center,” said Kristy Stambaugh, the city’s Aging Services and Disability Support administrator.
“It speaks to how we want to be a livable community.”
Older adults can do yoga, play cards, shoot pool and take college-level classes at the center, but the new building will be more than a recreation center.
It will house two social workers and a health clinic, and seniors can take classes taught by UK professors through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Donovan Scholars Program).
Beth Mills is the city Commissioner of Social Services and was the first director of the center. Fayette was the last county in the state to open a senior center, which immediately found its place in the community .
“That was one of the best jobs I ever had,” Mills said. “When we opened, it quickly became a place of purpose and meaning.
“We were state of the art then and this will be state of the art now.
“We toured other senior centers and I really believe this will be one of the best centers in the country.”
Currently, the senior center serves folks from age 60 to 100 and beyond, averaging 130 people a day with more than 1,100 regular users of the facility’s classrooms, meeting spaces and professional services.
The new center is designed to accommodate the spike in the city’s aging population as the Baby boomers move into their 60s.
The groundbreaking in October featured mayor Jim Gray, city officials and some special guests – none more special than Ernestine Tomlinson. She was 58 when the first senior center opened and she and her husband Charlie came every day.
Now 88, she still comes to the center regularly and works as a volunteer at the center.
Her husband has since passed away and Mills credits the center with helping her through her grief.
“The center keeps her young,” Mills said. “This is a transformative project. Our staff there is great and could build community anywhere.
“Now, they will have the tools and venue to do the kind of community building we need, to serve the community better and to meet more individual needs.”