02/19/07 — County officials take look at expansion needs

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County officials take look at expansion needs

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on February 19, 2007 1:51 PM

When Wayne County Services on Aging Director Yvonne McLamb envisions a senior center, she sees a facility that is large enough to facilitate any program or class idea for the ever-increasing number of seniors in the county.

Throughout the building, seniors are enjoying sewing or computer courses on one side of the hallway while more learn line dancing or yoga across the hall.

Outside the complex, seniors of all financial backgrounds and ethnicities are gardening together on the large amount of green space surrounding the facility or they are taking a stroll along a quiet walking trail.

But the reality she wakes up to every morning is a building on the corner of John and Walnut streets, which once served as a bank, that has trouble serving the needs of the senior community.

There is hardly any space for anything -- no space for more classes, no storage space, no space for seniors to exercise and no space for employees, she said.

Upon entering the building, residents are greeted by a central registration desk, but after that -- it is small spaces and programs wherever there is room, Mrs. McLamb said.

Services on Aging created a computer room that holds eight computers. Mrs. McLamb said the department is getting five more computers, but she has no place to put them. That is a common problem for Services on Aging, she added.

"We could get more equipment for all of our programs, but we have no place to put it," Mrs. McLamb said.

The concern is the same for classes and programs throughout the Senior Center. The department already has three computer classes filled, but more seniors want an opportunity to take the course.

Sewing machines have been moved around the entire building to create room for a cardiopulmonary resuscitation course. The department is supposed to offer an exercise room, but can only provide a small area with five stationary bicycle machines and two treadmills. Other walking courses are not available because it is unsafe for seniors to go outside the building and walk on the uneven concrete sidewalks.

Seniors have requested a line dancing class, but there is no more room. Those problems will continue to expand as the Wayne County senior population continues to increase, Mrs. McLamb said. Many of those seniors will request a larger variety of courses that the department does not have space for.

In the center's dining room, the limited space and existing schedule prevents classes from being held there. It is possible to make space for classes in the afternoon, but that would require staff to move all chairs and tables out of the room and put them back in before the seniors' next meal.

And space is also an issue in the building's only kitchen.

"I guess the only thing to call it is a kitchenette," Mrs. McLamb said.

The center can't hold special events that they cater themselves because the kitchen does not have enough counter and preparation space. Because of this, all of the seniors' meals are prepared by WAGES.

The building's bathrooms have even become a problem. There is only one handicapped-accessible bathroom stall for men and one for women, Mrs. McLamb said.

She said because of the building's location and condition, some seniors have the notion that the center is intended just for the less fortunate.

"The senior center is supposed to be for anyone 55 and older. If we have limited space here, we can't expand on the programs people want. We could have bridge groups and all other kinds of things," Mrs. McLamb said.

Services on Aging and, in particular, the Senior Center are places meant for the public and Mrs. McLamb said she would like to see the public get more involved.

"This is a place of social, emotional and recreational activities with other retired seniors. It's not based on financial need, race, color or creed," she said.

Mrs. McLamb added that she is willing to do anything to provide that for Wayne County's senior citizens -- even if that means starting a non-profit foundation that works with the community to help raise money.

Hopefully, the county commissioners will help with constructions costs. During the board's annual retreat on Jan. 26, the commissioners discussed a preliminary capital improvement plan that would provide $20 million in 2011 for a complex that serves Social Services, Health and Services on Aging. County Manager Lee Smith said the county has considered creating a complex on the 40 acres of county-owned land at the old Wayne Community College campus.

If the department were fortunate enough to get a new building, Mrs. McLamb said Services on Aging would need a separate wing just for office space. The building's existing conference room is now used for group meetings. The program supervisor's desk is now in that conference room, but the room does not have the proper wiring to allow for a computer.

And, of course, classrooms are a necessity for the future, Mrs. McLamb said.

"If we had classrooms, we could have AARP safe driving courses or the AARP tax program. We could do things for seniors of all ages," she said.