I’m happy to report that more and more people are taking advantage of the Senior Center. In 2013, there were 70 people who used the Center. Most of them played bridge, bingo or Skipbo, or participated in chair yoga or the book club.
We still offer those activities, but now we also offer programs that appeal to a broader audience, such as Jazzercise Lite, Mah Jongg, Duplicate Bridge, many new games, monthly soup and sandwich luncheons, and lots of special events, including trips, speakers, a luau and an ice cream social. We also are scheduling outdoor activities like canoeing, bicycling and snowshoeing.
As a result, in less than two years, our membership has almost tripled. We now have 206 members.
This growth would not have happened without many volunteers and without Lou Ann Pioli. When she was hired as our first Senior Activities Coordinator in October 2014, she hit the ground running. More than 100 new people have joined the center since then. Clearly there was a need for more senior programs.
The Center helps people make friends, socialize, stay active, and improve their physical and mental health. Senior centers are usually supported by municipalities, which provide space and staff, and we are no different. For 30 years, the Village has generously given us space and utilities. Lou Ann was hired with taxes from the Village and the Town. The community supports seniors in other ways too, such as the Senior Van and weekly luncheons for Essex Senior Citizens.
With a growing senior population, our officials face the need for even more services for the 50-plus population.
We spend millions every year on our youth, and I don’t begrudge a penny of it. It’s our duty to educate the next generation and provide programs for them to be active and productive and stay out of trouble.
Seniors have worked all our lives, raised our families, and paid our taxes. We need recreation, education, and nutrition, too.
After cooking for 40-plus years, seniors often grow tired of it, or don’t like cooking for one, so their health suffers. Consequently, many senior centers have commercial kitchens to offer daily nutritious lunches.
With 20,000 people growing older every day in Essex and more senior housing being developed, the needs of the senior population are increasing.
We are outgrowing our space in the Village office building. Basic needs, such as rest rooms and parking, are limited. Many feel anxious exiting into heavy traffic on route 2A. As the senior population increases, people have been working behind the scenes to address our growing needs.
Essex Senior Citizens and the Senior Center are merging into one new corporation and working to get the IRS non-profit designation to receive tax-deductible donations. We will be asking for municipal support to help start a fundraising campaign. Within a few years, we hope to open a new Senior Center to better meet the growing needs of the community. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we feel it’s needed. Stay tuned!