County seniors celebrate the improvements at Bain Center

Columbia facility's expansion, renovation cost almost $2 million, took over a year

Seniors enjoy improvements at the renovated Bain Center

April 24, 2005|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,SUN STAFF

The Silver Bells Tappers dance troupe used to rehearse on a hard floor in a makeshift studio at the former Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.

The seniors now practice on a padded, wooden surface that is easier on their joints and muscles -- one of many updated features in the newly renovated facility, now known as the Bain Center.

"For many years, we danced on a tile floor, and it was actually dangerous," Jeanne Stevens, 82, dance instructor and a member of the tap dance troupe. "They made the room especially for dance moves; we were so thankful for that."

The nearly $2 million makeover and expansion of the county's largest senior center has been a long time coming.

Opened in 1983, the Bain Center was named after Florence L. Bain, an advocate for senior citizens in Columbia. It is one of eight senior centers in the county and plays host to about 400 seniors each week.

An expansion was needed to make room for the projected increase in seniors living in Howard County, officials said.

Population projections indicate that by 2010 44,977 seniors will live in the county, 19 percent of the overall population of the county.

After more than a year of construction, the white-and-brown, single-story building on Ruth Keeton Way got a 3,500-square- foot addition, bringing its total space to 24,000 square feet.

New features

Construction was completed last winter after a few setbacks, including a burst sprinkler pipe in January that forced postponement of construction when more than 3 inches of water destroyed carpets, walls and an exercise room.

The center was never closed during the renovation, but certain activities were halted during the period.

"There were some brave people who used the facility during the renovation," said Phyllis Madachy, director of the county's Office on Aging.

The renovated center houses an exercise studio and several multipurpose rooms, along with computer-training, arts-and-crafts and woodshop rooms.

The building features brighter lights, new windows and a large room with two professional-size pool tables.

"I feel that the renovation is excellent for seniors," said Elise F. Waters, 83, of Columbia. The former facility "was nice, but this is superb."

Continuing activities

As it did before, the center will offer health screenings, bingo, book clubs, language classes and information sessions on such topics as health and wellness and tax advice.

"There are a number of drop-in activities that go on here," said Madachy. "People come to play bridge and shoot pool here."

Space is available for evening and weekend rental by community groups.

There is also live entertainment -- something that was on display Thursday, when about 250 seniors joined state and local officials, including Howard County Executive James N. Robey, to celebrate the newly renovated center.

The Goldenaires played popular tunes and standards, including "What's New," during which Robey joined Anne Brusca, a member of the center's advisory council, and about a dozen other couples on the dance floor in the multipurpose room.

The renovated center drew good reviews from some of its longtime users.

Betty Petrogallo, 77, of Columbia is involved in dance and tai chi activities at the center.

"We've been coming here for 15 years; this place is really great," she said.

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