12/27/13 — Numbers at newly renovated local senior center continue to skyrocket

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Numbers at newly renovated local senior center continue to skyrocket

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 27, 2013 1:46 PM

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Maureen Prys, left, and Jo Ann Fisher learn different strategies behind playing bridge Thursday at the Peggy M. Seegars Senior Center. The center offers many activities and classes for all Wayne County residents 60 and older.

Wayne County Services on Aging Director Eryn McAuliffe can remember hoping to see an increase of at least 100 senior citizens at Wayne County's new Senior Center after it opened in October 2012.

What she saw instead was an almost fourfold increase.

"One of the changes that I have found since moving to this new building is the number of seniors who come and use the building on a regular basis has increased," Ms. McAuliffe told Wayne County commissioners this past week. "The year before we moved in we had 337 different individuals who came to the Senior Center and participated in programs.

"Since we have moved in we have 1,178 different ones. What I have said before when we were building this building, I was very nervous. I thought, 'What if the people don't come?' In my mind I had a number. If I could get 100 new seniors I would feel good. Well, we have done that and then some."

Of particular interest is the age group that has grown the most, she said.

Seniors ages 60-64 have increased their numbers from 49 to 265.

"I think that is attributable to our fitness room and to our nighttime hours so working seniors can come," she said.

However, there has been significant growth in all the age groups with the numbers doubling or tripling.

The numbers by age group are: 65-69, increased from 73 to 292; 70-74, from 83 to 279; 75-79, from 65 to 167; 80-84, from 47 to 111; and over 85 from 20 to 64.

Participation in center events has more than tripled, growing from 330 to 1,107 senior citizens.

The largest increase, from 175 to 790, is in the number of senior citizens who use the fitness and exercise equipment and programs.

"Those are going to be healthier seniors," Ms. McAuliffe said. "They are going to use less health care so it will be a savings to the county overall. We have what is known as a 20/20/20 exercise class. We do 20 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of flexibility training and 20 minutes of strength training.

"We have fitness room instruction. There are four times a week that I have actual trainers in the fitness room who will work with seniors on how to appropriately use the equipment. It is like having your own personal trainer right here in the Senior Center."

Growth in other areas are: community education, from 221 to 439; cultural events, from 47 to 60; nutrition, from 208 to 462; recreation, from 164 to 589; and social events from 235 to 629.

The move into the much larger facility has allowed the center to expand the variety of programs it offers.

The new programs include bridge and bridge lessons, zumba lessons, recreational cards, a horseshoe pit, Monday night bingo, movie matinees and line dancing through the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Department.

A social worker for the blind is stationed at the center and services also are available from the N.C. Division for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Legal Aid workers visit the center also, and a certified life coach volunteers there.

Many of the programs would not be possible without the many people who volunteer at the center, Ms. McAuliffe said.

"We have more than 70 people who donate their time to keep this program going," she said. "It is from every aspect. We have volunteer teachers, volunteer cleaners, volunteers administrators. They serve lunches. We truly could not do this without our volunteers.

"I would like to acknowledge my staff because our workload has tripled. They have stepped up to the plate and are working hard and doing a good job."

The Senior Center's funding had taken an almost $30,000 hit because of state and federal budget cuts, she said. The cuts have affected transportation services and in-home aides the most.

"We now have longer waiting lists," Ms. McAuliffe said. "In terms of the future, I have been told that I might be hit by sequestration again after January.

"That could be $40,000 to $50,000, from what I have been told. So I am hoping that it does not happen."

Ms. McAuliffe said she also understands that the GATEWAY bus/van system is considering changing its rates.

"Now we are paying a flat rate, but it might go to a per mile," she said. "If that happens, it will be an increase for us. So that might mean some cuts also."