Senior Center Feels The Pinch

June 02, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The stage at the Westminster Senior Citizens' Center can't be used for performances.

It is piled with boxes of craft materials and other supplies, because it is the only storage area available.

Seniors who want to play pool have to wait until ceramics class is over, because their pool table is in the crafts room.

"We've grown as far as we can grow in the fish tank," said Charlene A. Fischer, who runs the resocialization program at the center. "We need a bigger fish tank."

A new Westminster senior center is being planned, and should be completed in 1995, Janet B. Flora, chief of the county Bureau of Aging, said Thursday.

The new Westminster senior center will be on 10 acres owned by the county off Bishop Street, behind Change Inc. and the Winchester Country Inn.

Ms. Flora described the current senior center as very small -- only 11,000 square feet. She said the new center's size has not been decided, but it would probably be under 27,000 square feet.

The current two-story building has no elevator and does not comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, she said. County agencies with offices upstairs from the senior center, including the Carroll County Bureau of Aging, have to hold their public meetings downstairs to guarantee accessibility for people with disabilities.

"Every time we take the [senior center] living room for a daytime meeting," Ms. Flora said, "we eliminate one-third of the space for senior activities."

Ms. Fischer said more space would allow her to offer a wider variety of programs, geared to seniors at different skill levels.

For example, she said, when the new senior center is ready, she hopes to have a quilting group for women who know how to quilt, as well as other sewing activities for people who need more individual help and attention.

The Westminster Senior Citizens' Center offers the usual range of programs found at Carroll County senior centers. But the Westminster facility is unique in that it also offers programs for developmentally disabled older people, and that means the center has a need for the additional space, Ms. Fischer said.

Lack of space at the Westminster center "makes it rough," said Christy Mullinix, site manager for the center's evening meal program.

Her office is in the middle of the senior center's dining room. Only a makeshift partition separates her desk from the noise created by whatever activity is going on in the room, such as lunch, an aerobics lesson or a crafts class.

Ann Allen, coordinator of the Senior Information and Assistance Program, which also has offices in the building, said her staff members work two to an office.

Clients have little privacy, even in confidential interviews on matters such as their finances and health.

New senior centers combined with libraries have already opened in Greenmount and in Mount Airy. Existing buildings have been remodeled to become senior centers in Taneytown and Eldersburg.

Jolene G. Sullivan, who directs Citizen Services for Carroll County, sought the help of David Polston, a consultant who specializes in planning senior centers.

Ms. Flora said he conducted focus groups with senior center staff, county leaders and the seniors themselves, to learn the senior programs' needs. Those needs will determine the building's floor plan.

"It's being designed with the idea of community use, as well," Ms. Flora said. She said the new center probably would have an area that can be shut off from the rest of the building for security purposes, which community groups could use for night meetings.

The planners are also striving to make sure the new center fits in with nearby historic buildings such as the Winchester Country Inn and the Carroll County Farm Museum, she said.

"We won't be looking at something very modern," Ms. Flora said.

Another consideration is size. The North Carroll Senior Citizens' Center "was small when it opened," Ms. Flora said.

With the new Westminster building, she said, "We're scrutinizing every space to make sure that we're requesting adequate space, but not excessive. . . . Funding is a critical issue."

She said the price of the building will depend on its final layout and size.

The county has applied for a $300,000 grant from the state for the center. The county will pay any remaining costs, Ms. Flora said.

Architects for the project are Colimore-Clarke Associates Inc., of Baltimore.

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