Senior gathering places are playing ever more important roles as baby boomers come of age. They are providing an array of sports, activities, programs and services in communities around the world — and in our region.
Because the Traverse City Senior Center is continuously looking for ways to meet the needs of its senior community, the idea of a countywide network was greeted with enthusiasm. To that end, the Senior Center and the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging have created the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network.
The outreach endeavor is funded by a grant from the Commission on Aging and is designed to provide services and programming throughout Grand Traverse County for everyone 60 years and older.
Right now, there are four regions — West Side (Interlochen/Blair/Long Lake); East Side (Acme/Williamsburg/East Bay); South County (Kingsley/Fife Lake/Paradise) and Central (Traverse City/Peninsula).
"In many cases with seniors, they don't want to drive in our city traffic, especially during the summer or community activity time, i.e., the Film Festival and Cherry Festival," said George McBath, coordinator for the Grand Traverse Senior Center Network. "But, even though they may come into Traverse City for a shuffleboard activity, they still may want a local program for a dance class. In the winter, seniors normally dislike driving in the snow for any distance. Furthermore, they may not even have transportation to bring them into activities and programs at the Senior Center in Traverse City."
The network will allow seniors to get involved in programs that the Traverse City Senior Center has without having to come into the main site in Traverse City.
"The interested senior groups will use meeting rooms at different locations, such as township offices, churches and libraries, and hold the same kind of a program," McBath said. "It could be a watercolor class, computer class, exercise program or dance class. We hope to have the person who facilitates the program at the Traverse City Senior Center available to facilitate the desired program in the outlying areas."
At the moment, McBath is keeping an open mind about what programs and activities will be offered, because seniors at each location will pick their own agendas. Any individual outlying location, which the Grand Traverse County Senior Center Network puts in place, may have a completely different lineup than another network center, as interests and needs differ in the various locations. Some target areas may have tennis courts available, where a tennis and/or pickleball program could be put in place, but it may not be convenient at another area. More programs will be added, especially as volunteers are recruited and additional space becomes available.
At an informational lunch, promoted through the local township offices, libraries and churches within the various areas, McBath will gather input on what activities the seniors are interested in. He will also have information on what may already be happening in their area. In addition, he will be recruiting volunteers to keep the program running.
A luncheon is already scheduled in Interlochen for noon Thursday, Sept. 23, at the Interlochen Public Library. Kingsley scheduled its luncheon for noon Oct. 14 at The Rock.
"If we begin with the target areas in Grand Traverse County, as a starting point, we will probably draw between 60 and 75 people, maybe up to 100 people, but then it will grow from there," McBath said. "It all depends on the program selection and word of mouth through interested people in the various areas."
If you are interested in volunteering in your community through the senior center network program, would like to request a specific activity to be offered in your area or you would like more information, McBath, 922-4911, email@example.com.
Kathleen Bellaw Gest is a local freelance writer. For more about the Traverse City Senior Center, go to www.tcseniorcenter.com.