WESTMINSTER — A beauty salon staffed by vocational high school students and a craft studio to sell items made by the city's older residents were some of the ideas community members had for a new Westminster Senior Centerlast night.
North Carolina architect and senior center designer David Polston is meeting today with several Westminster seniors to find out what kind of center they would like to visit and use. Last night, he had a session for other community members to find out what theywant. They included the County Commissioners, Westminster CouncilmanWilliam Haifley, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, staff from various county departments and members of the Commission on Aging.
With an estimated cost of $7.1 million and an expectation the building off South Center Street will be used for at least 35 years, the center needs to be well-planned, flexible and useful to the community at large, said Department of Aging Director Jolene Sullivan.
"It depends on how the community wants to use it," Polston said of the final recommendations he will leave with the Department of Aging.As a consultant, he will prepare a plan that the county can use to hire an architect to design a center.
One of the seniors he will talk to today is Beulah Belt of Finksburg, who has been a regular at the Westminster Senior Center since it started in 1972 in the basement of a Washington Road home.
"I'd like to have more activities in the center, more cupboard space," said Belt, 81. "We need a lot more room."
Belt said she also would like to see a building more accessible to the many handicapped members of the center and programs geared to the developmentally disabled members, without sacrificing programsfor more able seniors.
The current center on Schoolhouse Avenue is a converted elementary school. About 65 to 70 people attend regularly, Sullivan said.
Polston has worked on more than 120 senior centers around the country, and has been specializing in that field for 12 years. Sullivan said Polston was recommended by the National Council on Aging.
He said some examples of the creative use of senior centers in other cities where he worked include a child day care centeradjacent to the senior center and a pre-retirement program incorporating health programs, financial planning and other areas of interest.
Ideas from the crowd last night, however, focused mostly on services for seniors. Polston had people work in teams of three to five toset objectives and activities to support them.
From the long menuof objectives he had passed out, the most commonly chosen by the group were: encouraging personal independence; encouraging social interaction; encouraging resourcefulness; and making activities and services accessible.
A group including Micki Smith, director of public information for the county, and Barbara Gundina of the Department of Parks and Recreation, came up with a plan that emphasized independence and confidence among seniors.
"Older people sometimes drop away from things," Smith said. Most already have many skills, but need to keep their confidence up about using them. Her team's plan included a lounge for groups of seniors to plan activities, as well as to encourage peer leadership.
Gundina proposed having students from vocational programs staff a beauty salon in the building. Smith also suggested the center could have other inter-generational activities to bring seniors together with youngsters.
The commissioners came up with aplan that included a focus on financial management and put a thrift store, craft studio and drug store at the entrance of the center.
Another group that included Sharon Dawson, administrative assistant to Sullivan, emphasized multiple use of space.