The newly renovated Washington County Senior Center gymnasium is now open, but its future depends on additional funding. The SeniorFit center officially opened on May 30th.
The Washington County Commission on Aging, the nonprofit group that owns the senior center, remodeled a 2,000-square-foot garage for the new gym. The senior center’s main building had a small room with some fitness equipment.
The new building has 24 pieces of equipment including treadmills, exercise bikes and fitness steppers. Seniors aged 55 and older can use the gym five days a week after undergoing safety training.
The center has more than 1,300 active members, according to a county news release. Before the renovation, classrooms were filling to capacity and there were waiting lists for the use of exercise equipment, the county said.
The gymnasium, along with the Aging Commission and other programs, are supported by federal, state or local funds or through direct donations.
In July, the commission will have to make tough choices about how to cut costs unless it secures additional funding, said Amy Olack, the commission’s CEO. As the cost of living goes up, so does the cost of running a building, Olack said.
That could mean fewer hours at the fitness center and other cuts.
The senior center and SeniorFit are free for all seniors, with the exception of some specialized training courses. This makes the financing of the building dependent on external financing.
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Olack is encouraging community members and the government to invest in the lives of older residents.
We need to invest in our seniors, this is our time to give something back to them, Olack said.
Local businesses have donated exercise equipment, a clock and televisions to the facility, Olack said.
The senior center as a whole focuses on the health and well-being of older adults, Fisher said. The center has SeniorFit, an outdoor fitness park and a plantar reflexology path. In addition to these services, the center offers strength training classes and personal health classes.
Kevin Sword said he has used the gym nearly every day since it opened. As he approaches 70, Sword said he’s trying to stay healthy.
If you let yourself go, you won’t live long, Sword said.
The senior center is about physical health and connection for seniors. Fisher said it’s important for seniors to be around like-minded people in spaces like fitness facilities.
The SeniorFit project started in 2019 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Washington County Commission on Aging operates 88 senior programs, including the senior center.
Tim Fisher, the commission’s chief development officer, said he has seen a dramatic increase in the number of seniors who have sought to use the commission’s programs since the pandemic.
One of the things it revealed in our paradigm was the big work happening here, the demand for services just skyrocketed, Fisher said.
Now that the public health emergency from the pandemic is over, Fisher said, funding may become harder to come by.
During the pandemic, he said, funding has been able to ramp up more for programs like the commission. Funding is now returning to its less flexible pre-pandemic state, even with increased demand for these services.
For the seniors of Washington County, the people who help build our county to be able to give back to them and provide them with an area where they can focus on their fitness and well-being that is critical to our mission, Fisher said.
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