Bigfork Senior Center Gets a Makeover

by Catherine Haug, January 14, 2012

Exciting changes are in store at our community’s senior center, beginning with a new director and exciting plans for a makeover. Since none of the proposed changes can happen without the help of our community, and since part of our ESP mission is to build a strong community, I propose that we step up to the plate. We can:

  • make suggestions to enhance what the center offers;
  • volunteer our time;
  • make donations or suggest potential donors;
  • join other seniors for lunch at the center; and
  • attend other activities offered by the center.

Read on for more, including Cat’s ideas to enhance what the center offers.

Does the Senior Center have an image problem?

The decline in seniors taking advantage of what the center’s facility and events makes me ponder. Are all our seniors dying off with no new seniors coming of age? Perhaps seniors are not aware it is there and when it is open?

Looking into my own heart, I know why I haven’t been using the center: I don’t think of myself as a ‘senior’ – even tho I am over 60. To me, a ‘senior’ is old and gray, slow and unsteady on the feet, and so on. Yet when I have visited senior centers in other communities, I find the people there are vital, active, eloquent and interesting – people just like me.

Improving the image of Bigfork’s Senior Center is a good place for ESP members to step up to the plate. A majority of our membership are seniors, many of us are recently retired and looking for ways to keep busy. We’re perfect for this!

We just need to get started. A good first step is to visit the center and talk with the new director about her plans for the future of the center, and asking how we can help. Will I see you there?

What’s happening at the center

Paraphrased from an article by Camillia Lanham in the January 11, 2012 Bigfork Eagle:

Bigfork’s Senior Center is often lonely, as fewer and fewer seniors take advantage of what it has to offer. So after becoming the new director of the center in july 2011, Michelle Shapero is guiding the center through a much-needed makeover, in the hope that it will attract more usage. This makeover not only includes its freshly painted walls, but also hopes for new flooring and a new roof (this year) and updated landscaping (in the spring).

Because of dwindling usage, the center currently only offers lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 1 PM, and delivered meals to elderly or disabled Bigfork residents who are physically unable to drive (food provided by the Agency on Aging in Kalispell). In its heyday, the center also served as a space for yoga and other exercise, and for social interaction.

Michelle hopes to restore many of the former activities as well as add a few new ones, such as knitting classes or games like pinochle. But this requires volunteers to teach the classes or rules of the games.

Ideas to enhance what the center offers

Cribbage: When I was a kid, this was a popular card game in Bigfork, with nearly all businesses participating in the annual cribbage tournament by offering space, crib board, cards, and beverages to the players. After many rounds whittled the crowd of players to a few winners, they gathered at the community hall (no longer in existence) for a play-off to determine the cribbage champion.

I know many people in our area know how to play crib, and I’d like to see the cribbage tourney restored – perhaps the final playoffs could be at the Senior Center.

Exercise: Low-impact exercise sessions, a few treadmills or other exercisers, dances, Wii (electronic games that encourage movement) and pool or other game tables.

Interaction with children: The center’s location just across the street from the school invites opportunities for seniors to interact with children. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Seniors could volunteer to read for children after school;
  • Create a raised-bed garden outside the center where seniors could mentor children on the basics of gardening, to gain an appreciation for food they can grow themselves;
  • Classes on topics of interest to seniors – perhaps FVCC could sponsor some classes at the Center

For more information or feedback

Interested in volunteering, donating, or just need more info? Contact the center at 837-4157, or stop by the center at 639 Commerce Street in Bigfork. The director is there from 10 AM to 2 PM, Monday through Friday.

Want to suggest activities etc.? Contact the center (see above) or me, Cat: 837-4577 or email cat(at)essentialstuff(dot)org [address disguised for security], and I’ll get the message to the director.

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