Utah’s oldest senior center celebrated 50 years of service Thursday in Salt Lake City. But the senior population is growing and changing, and local leaders say they need to adapt along with them in order to meet their needs.
Tenth East Senior Center Manager John Bennett says 50 years ago, bingo and pool were the popular pastimes. Nowadays, the center is filled with baby boomers, many of them still working, and they’re looking for something different.
“Yoga and tai chi would not have been on anybody’s radar 50 years ago or 30 years ago. Now yoga is one of our most popular classes being taught 5 days a week here. As the interests evolve, generations evolve, we need to evolve with them. But there will always be a need for these types of centers,” Bennett says.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population. He says meeting their needs becomes more difficult when the federal budget is cut.
“Here at the local level, we don’t have the luxury of gridlock. We see the challenges day in and day out, and we have to adapt and we have to find solutions. So we are doing that. We’re innovating at Salt Lake County. In some cases, we’re stepping up financially to help fill the gap as we done with the construction of senior centers in the recent past, but we’re also calling on the community to step up and volunteer,” McAdams says.
The county has recently stepped up efforts to recruit volunteers for programs like Meals on Wheels, which is losing some federal funds due to sequestration. McAdams says the county will work to make sure essential services are still there for seniors, in spite of the uncertainty in Congress.