Life, energy, excitement – there are few words that better describe the new Lexington Senior Center, which opened in September in Idle Hour Park.
Light pours in through 20-foot high floor-to-ceiling windows. Participants smile and say hello as they amble through the huge open floors.
The 33,000 square-foot, $13-million building was designed for older adults with active lifestyles.
Workout rooms, card tables and open-air patios spring to life with the hustle and bustle of the participants.
The city broke ground on the new facility in October 2014. When it opened Sept. 15 of this year, 85 new members signed up. After three days, the center doubled its number of participants.
Members must be Fayette County residents 60 or older, or the spouse of someone 60 or older, and must be physically independent.
Caroline Hunt, 69, who was a participant for a year at the old site on Nicholasville Road, called the new building “a little piece of heaven.”
EOP Architects designed the “little piece of heaven” with older adults in mind. There are no hallways, and doorways are double wide. The building could not be more accessible.
The first floor is equipped with a double-height ceilinged multipurpose room with a stage, dining room and three ping-pong tables.
Participants can enroll in academic courses in the two classrooms on the first floor. Teachers include retired professors, community elders and even Ben Chandler, the former U.S. congressman. Classes provided by the UK Donovan Scholars program are also offered.
Also on the first floor are a library, an outdoor patio with teakwood tables and chairs and a raised flower bed. Near the patio participants can play shuffleboard, pickle ball, bocce ball and croquet, or take walks on the nearly 1-mile long outdoor track that encircles the building.
On the second floor, elevators open to more floor-to-ceiling windows. In two conference rooms, the Senior Center can host book groups and travel programs. Older adults can take percussion and piano lessons in the music room.
In the two art rooms, volunteers and employees teach ceramics, pottery and china painting among other crafts.
Eight card tables, three pool tables and a TV occupy the open area of the second floor, brightened by skylights. When a reporter from Lexington Family Magazine visited the Senior Center, everyone was too busy playing pool, cards or doing some other activity to watch TV.
Perhaps the most striking area of the second floor is the group fitness room that features a 15-foot high ceiling. During yoga, Tai Chi, Zumba and other aerobics classes, participants can look through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows at refurbished Idle Hour Park.
The nearby state-of-the-art exercise room has machines for every workout plan. Once people complete an orientation, they can use the equipment from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. A small area for lockers and a private shower are also available.
The new Senior Center is a welcome change from the old building, said Kristy Stambaugh, director of Aging and Disability Services.
“It’s awesome that the city recognized the growing need of the aging population and dedicated resources to create this state-of-the-art center to serve people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s,” she said. “This is a place for lively, energetic older adults.”
Stambaugh, who directs nine full-time and four part-time staffers, praised the architects for incorporating natural light and accessibility into the design.
“This is a happy place with a purposeful, universal design,” Stambaugh said. “There is something for most people.”
And it meets the needs of a growing demographic. By 2030, Fayette County is expected to have nearly 100,000 senior residents.
Clearly, this is a building that honors and respects older members of the community, providing a cheerful place for relaxation, socializing and other activities.
The smiling faces of the participants reflect that.
Ernestine Tomlinson, 90, is a charter member of the original Senior Center, which opened in 1983 when she was 57 and her husband was 60.
“I like it real well,” Tomlinson said about the new building. “It’s nice, they did a great job.”
Tomlinson took a shuttle van from Bryan Station Road to play bingo at the new building.
Hunt, the 69-year-old who called the new location “a little piece of heaven,” also came for bingo.
For the ribbon cutting of the new facility in September, Hunt dressed up in some of her best clothes, suitable for the occasion.
“When I left the old building, I took off an old coat,” she said. “When I walked through the new doors here, I put on a new coat,” Hunt said. “It is absolutely amazing.”
To appreciate the vitality of the new building just check out the address: 195 Life Lane