Senior Center East Has Been In The Works For Four Years

The general obligation bond ballot measures passed in August 2018 paved the way for a nearly $2 million Senior Center East location.

Why is this project being planned now? Actually, it has been in the works for more than four years. The process of defining building and space needs for any group is lengthy; most of these projects take years of planning. Fortunately for the BA Senior Center, we have a strong partnership with the city of Broken Arrow, and City Councilman Johnnie Parks currently chairs our Building Committee. We went through four rounds of edits before the final plans were adopted by the Center and City Council.

How many older adults currently live in Broken Arrow? Our approximately 27,800 residents 55 and over comprise about 24.8% of the population. According to the Census, the total BA population is around 110,000 but is expected to increase in the next 20 years, especially with adults getting older and planned growth in Broken Arrow of 40,000 to 50,000 additional residents.

What’s wrong with the current Senior Center? Nothing. Right now we’re so limited for space that we have people who want to come here and participate in activities and we just have no space to accommodate them. Our current design does not accommodate the current and future needs for older adults. The current building limits our ability to offer programs requested by existing seniors, let alone expand programs to reach additional users. Seniors are being turned away from popular programs due to space restrictions. The lack of adequate parking limits the number of seniors who can participate in popular activities. There is a lack of private meeting space for consultations and clinics. These problems are getting steadily worse as the senior population grows.

How does the new building address our current needs? It allow us to double our number of meeting rooms. I think it’s going to bring more people to the Broken Arrow Senior Center, which will be laid out beautifully. There is a space that can be expanded to be the same size as Centennial. We will also gain more than 200 additional parking spots.

What activities will be held at the Senior Center East? That has not been determined. We will work on some of that over the next 16 months. However, doubling the number of meeting rooms will give us many more options on when and where classes are offered. We can flex spaces up and  down based on attendance. For example, if there’s a 14-person line dancing class, it could move to a smaller room while a 40-person crochet class could utilize a larger space. Currently, no more than 25 people can participate in the crochet class.

How will we move back-and-forth across Main Street? We don’t know yet. However, the city, architect and Center staff will find a solution that protects our members.

Will it be a turnkey building? The general obligation bonds will cover construction of the Center but not amenities. So tables, chairs, electronics, supplies, signage – anything beyond a floor, walls and windows will require funding. We will conduct a capital campaign over the next two years to pay for amenities in the new building as well as the reconfiguration of the existing building.

It might be hard to imagine an additional senior center building at a time when we are still closed. But remember that the core values that make our senior center special remain constant – the desire to support independence and social engagement and, ultimately, the quality of life of older adults, enhanced and impacted through a broad mix of programs, services and amenities. To this end, I believe the senior center of the future will be a more deliberately and insightfully designed place.

If you have questions, suggestions or would like to learn more about the future building, please reach out to me. I welcome the dialogue – sean@baseniors.org or 918-259-8377.

Circle Of Readers Continues To Be Active

Sharing books and the love of reading is the focus of the Circle of Readers group as they continue to meet on Zoom. The number of members joining the group continues to grow for this very active group, despite the challenge of not meeting in person. The group’s discussion plans for the coming weeks include:

July 6: “The Library Book,” by Susan Orlean • nonfiction;

July 20: Zoom meeting to discuss other books we are reading and connect;

Aug 3: “Meet Me at the Museum,” by Anne Youngson • fiction.

Would you be interested in receiving free books? Several members of the Circle of Readers group have enjoyed taking advantage of receiving books from BookTrib. BookTrib.com was created as a news source for people who love reading books, want to find out what’s happening in the book world and love learning about great authors.

Readers interested in vying for free books from BookTrib in exchange for writing a brief, honest review and posting it on social media can contact Dorothy Minor at dorothyminor10@gmail.com, Circle of Readers activity leader, for more information. Find out more about BookTrib’s mission at https://booktrib.com/ our-mission/.

If you are interested in joining the Circle of Readers group, email Dorothy.

Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group Meet Every Week

The Alzheimer’s Support group usually meets each month at the Center on the first and third Fridays of the month at 10 a.m. Although they have been unable to meet at the Center, the group now gets together every Friday, thanks to the technology of Zoom.

“Our Alzheimer’s support group provides people who are caregivers the opportunity to share stories, seek advice and simply have others listen to them on a regular basis,” said Jean Righter, the group’s facilitator. “Meeting each week on Zoom has been a real blessing for caregivers during this time of COVID-19 isolation, which has been particularly challenging for them.”

“Talking with others helps them deal with stress and alleviate the health risks that caregivers face,” she added.

The group can provide the assistance and reassurance caregivers need to manage stress and take time for their own much-needed care. The group can also provide information regarding community resources on Alzheimer’s education and other programs that can ease some of the workload.

If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s and would like to participate in this group, email Jean at nanabananato7@gmail.com. She can email the information about how to meet using Zoom to talk to other caregivers while staying at home.

“Zoom is very user friendly,” she noted. “If you have email and a phone, you can have access to Zoom.”

Righter encourages caregivers to join their group.

“Remember that staying healthy not only benefits you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver but your loved one, too,” she concluded.

We Always Strive To Make Our Mission Meaningful

As a nonprofit business leader, I wake up each day ready to make a difference in our community by creating a safe environment for individuals over the age of 55 to be physically active and socially engaged. That mission promise is what we face every day – virus or not.

Like most individuals and businesses, each day brings with it new statistics, guidelines, regulations and rules of engagement. The Broken Arrow Senior Center has dealt with the COVID-19 incident head-on, all the while reinventing how we deliver programming to our members.

Regardless, the last 110 days have been challenging.

The next 110 days will, no doubt, be challenging as well.

Will COVID-19 infections go up? What about hospitalizations? Fatalities? Will COVID disappear?

It seems nearly every conversation I have, the topic of the coronavirus comes up. My stock answer to the question of what I’ve learned during this time – “It is easy to close the Center. It is difficult to open the Center.”

Re-opening is not a matter of just unlocking the doors.

As we move closer to a re-opening date – partial on July 6 – we must have a thorough re-opening plan. It’s essential that we determine how to provide programs and services while keeping our members and staff safe. In this newsletter, we spell out what members will experience coming back to take fitness classes. That explanation is on page 13.

We have to provide an environment that delivers options for our members at the same time we have measures in place to protect our members. The person ultimately responsible for keeping you safe is – you.

Last month, I wrote that there are no sounds of feet on the floor exercising. No strumming from guitars or ukuleles. The pool balls are put away. Scissors, glue guns and sewing machines are in cabinets. And the sound of dominoes moving across the table is nonexistent.

Members are waiting for all those activities and more to be available and accessible. Our struggle was to determine what could be offered that still follows the national and state re-opening plans.

We’ve begun the process of re-assessing the future reopening of the Center. My team and the board hope that will occur on July 6. That is, if the COVID-19 numbers do not continue to escalate.

Many of the ways we’ve conducted business in the past few months, by creating an alternative delivery of our member experience, will be looked at for solutions moving forward. The process will be slow, systematic and will ultimately ensure the safety and security of everyone at the Center.

We do know that some of the delivery options that have been offered will continue after we open. We will keep a limited number of fitness videos and continue to utilize Zoom technology. Business will be conducted a little different in the short-term and possibly for the foreseeable future.

Those options will continue to be offered because, in talking with our members, many of you do not feel comfortable returning to the Center until later in July or into August and September. That’s fine. Because as I wrote earlier, the person most responsible for keeping you safe is you.

Some of the warnings indicate that people over the age of 55 should avoid being in enclosed spaces and should avoid extended contact with other people. That is where the most risk of infection lies.

When we reopen for fitness classes, they will be held in Centennial, which is 3,200 square feet. The class size will be 30 max, plus the instructor. That is one participant per 100 square feet.

We asked other senior centers across the country what their re-opening plans looked like, and they were nearly identical to our own. When we look to move to Stage 2 and 3, we will be confident our plan is sound, and we have comfort in knowing that the experience we provide will closely match that in other centers in the country.

So in answer to your questions: No, dominoes, creative writing, pool, quilting, singing, crochet, photography, poker, guitar, ukulele or bingo will not happen on July 6. Be patient – as you’ve been the past three months – and those activities will resume soon enough.

I ask that you respect the difficult decisions that staff and the board have made, and trust that we will collectively continue to do the best possible job we can in hopes that you’ll have the best experience that you can – one that involves the physical activity and social interaction you’re used to having, but with safety and security measures in place to protect you.

Be patient. Be smart. Be safe. Be thankful.