On a trip Wednesday through the Dick Eardley Senior Center, Boise Parks and Recreation director Doug Holloway assured a group of pinochle players that they can keep participating in the activities seniors have enjoyed for decades.
That seemed to quiet some concerns for the players. In December, the city of Boise took over management of the center, and it is planning some changes.
But the favorites aren’t going anywhere, Holloway said. That includes the hot lunch; the knitting group that drew a healthy group of women Wednesday to do needlework or make afghans, towels or dog blankets; the pool tables where a half-dozen men played snooker and ribbed each other; and, yes, pinochle.
The difference is that the city wants to add a few things that are more active — more in line with the daily routine at the Fort Boise Community Center, whose building stands just a few feet southeast of the senior center. In fact, Holloway said, the city might start coordinating activities at both centers to draw some of the people who frequent the community center into the senior center, and vice versa.
The idea is twofold, Holloway said. First, the city wants to expand the options for its guests, many of whom have been senior center regulars for years. The second goal is to attract new people who might be more active.
“There’s an age group and skill-set of seniors that want the experience that they’re currently getting today at the senior center,” Holloway said. “We will continue to provide that. While we’re providing that experience, we need to be able to provide an experience that the more active senior is hungry for.”
HISTORY AND FUTURE
Boise built the senior center 38 years ago. In 2015, the city changed its name to Dick Eardley Senior Center, in honor of the mayor who served from 1974 to 1986.
For its entire history, a nonprofit group now called Senior Solutions has managed the center on behalf of the city, Holloway said. In November 2015, Senior Solutions gave Boise a one-year notice that it would no longer handle those services. The nonprofit was dissolved on Jan. 3, according to Idaho secretary of state records.
Boise took over management Dec. 1. Senior Solutions left most of the furniture and equipment, including tables, chairs, pool tables and a piano. The crown jewel of the 26,000-square-foot facility might be the commercial kitchen, where Metro Meals on Wheels cooks food to deliver to more than 900 senior citizens throughout Ada County.
Holloway expects the city’s management costs to roughly equal the $330,000 Boise paid Senior Solutions last fiscal year.
Over the next several months, Boise Parks and Recreation plans to host three open houses to talk to people about what’s happening at the senior center, what’s not happening, and what the people who visit would like to see more of.
‘MATURE ATHLETIC CLUB’
In recent years, Boise has become an increasingly attractive retirement destination, especially for people who hail from more expensive markets such as San Francisco or Seattle.
Combine that with a growing number of baby boomers who are hitting retirement age, and you can see why Holloway believes now is the time to reprogram the center.
“The stigmatized senior center across rural Idaho is an older building with a lot of folks that are older and are pushing walkers and really just don’t want to do a whole lot,” he said. “That’s not going to be the case in probably five more years with the baby boomers. And they’re going to want activities. They’re going to want to play pickleball. They’re going to want to do more things. So how do we take a senior center and make it more of an activity center?”
Holloway wants to incorporate the center’s menu of activities not just with the community center next door, but also with a host of other services, such as city libraries and Parks and Recreation’s Lifetime and Leisure Activities, a program that offers community tours, day trips to popular destinations, classes, and gatherings that are of special interest to seniors.
Boise Library director Kevin Booe said incorporating senior activities fits the library’s mission of being more than a place where people check out books.
‘DISCOVER NEW THINGS’
For example, Booe said, the Collister branch library on State Street hosts an exercise class that helps seniors increase strength, balance, endurance and overall mobility.
“We like to be a community catalyst for different ventures for the public to explore and engage in,” he said. “A place to explore new things, discover new things and just enjoy the information services that we have, but also different activities and venues that the community provides.”
Programs such as Lifetime and Leisure pay for themselves through fees that cover their costs, Holloway said.
“We’ll do the same thing in programming over here, but recognizing the fixed income perspective that we’re dealing with with this population, we also have scholarship opportunities for seniors,” he said.
Over time, mixing activities between the senior center, Fort Boise and other services should lead to a continuum of pursuits and participants that Holloway thinks of as a “mature athletic club.”
“How do we create a gathering space for what’s going to be a very large population of folks in our community that are going to need services?” he said. “And when I say ‘need services,’ not social services necessarily, but activities that are geared specifically toward their age, their skill set.”
The city of Boise, which now manages the senior center, is holding the first of three events Feb. 9 to hear from people on what they’d like to see more or less of at the facility.
The Feb. 9 open house is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at the senior center, 690 Robbins Road, Boise.