Seniors

Center seeks input on new vision

While riding on the bike path one weekend, out-of-town architect Doug Gallow and his gerontologist wife, Ellen, who specialize in designing senior centers, just happened to pass the Yellow Springs Senior Center and stop in.

“You need some help,” Senior Center director David Scott recalled them saying about its facility, which lacks handicapped accessibility, parking, meeting rooms and other space for its staff and constituents.

The Senior Center, which had already planned to move to a new or renovated building, later hired the Gallows, principals of Lifespan Design Studio in Lebanon. On Thursday, Aug. 11, the Gallows will present their initial vision of the new Senior Center and get feedback from the community. The presentation will be at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center’s Great Room, 227 Xenia Avenue. The public is encouraged to attend.

Over the last six months, the Gallows assessed the Senior Center’s needs and interviewed local residents to complete an architectural program that describes the functions and spaces required of the center’s new facility and that will help in evaluating potential sites. No designs or renderings have yet been completed. The initial work cost $12,000, half provided by a grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

Lifespan Design Studio has worked with more than 50 senior centers around the country and brings experience designing spaces with optimal handicapped access, lighting, colors, furniture and more, according to Doug Gallow.

“To have the physical environment that’s truly designed for people with different and changing abilities as the aging process takes place is really important,” Gallow said.

Envisioned in the Gallows’ program are a meeting room that can accommodate 150, an exercise and dance studio, equipped fitness room, art studio, library, café, computer nook, kitchen, several smaller meeting rooms, staff offices and more in about 10,000 square feet. A new building of this size would be estimated to cost $2.5 million, Scott said, though a renovated building might cost half that amount.

The Senior Center currently provides transportation, homemaking, home assistance, meals, a variety of wellness, artistic and social activities, outings and more.

“We’ve outgrown our facility — it can no longer work,” Scott said about its Xenia Avenue location, adding that it was originally a residence and is most appropriate as a retail business. Gallow said the current location lacks private rooms critical for dealing with the sensitive issues of its constituents.

However, Scott said he hopes the Xenia Avenue facility can still function as a place for the community to gather, or what he calls “the couch on Main Street.”

In interviews with about 40 villagers, Gallow said that most hoped the new center could be close to downtown. About 2.5 acres will be needed for the new facility and a minimum of 60 parking spaces.

The most promising site of the new Senior Center is the former Antioch Inn on the Antioch College campus, which has sufficient parking, can draw from nearby educational opportunities and has a large kitchen that could be used for community food preservation, Scott said. The Senior Center could also lease the property from Antioch to reduce upfront costs. Once a site has been identified and the building designed, a capital campaign to raise funds for construction will begin.

Scott said the new facility would help the center better execute its home healthcare assistance and transportation programs while also serving the growing group of more active baby boomers who are interested in lifelong learning, and could be called on to solve local problems.

“The boomers are coming,” he said. “We still have to service people in need … but to engage the boomers we have to have the kind of activities that interest them.”

Community members feel strongly that the Senior Center should continue to enable older adults to live in their homes and engage in the community but that the center should avoid competing with or duplicating existing programs and amenities in the community, they said in interviews. In addition, they said the center should promote health and wellness, offer arts programming, create age 50-plus think tanks, expand its role as a place for community meetings and be located as close to the center of town as possible.

In a survey completed last spring of Senior Center participation, most of its constituents were very satisfied with the center’s services and activities, though many had never utilized them. Its most popular activities have been outings, meals and potlucks, seated volleyball, flexercise and meetings on aging issues.

Gallow said that villagers value the Senior Center’s role in the community.

“Yellow Springs understands the importance of the senior center being an amenity in the community,” Gallow said. “They understand that it really does add to the quality of life in the community.”

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