Renton Senior Activity Center attendees Steve Riordan, Skip Clemens and Jackie Silva are seen here, left, enjoying sunshine and conversation. Courtesy photo

Renton Senior Activity Center attendees Steve Riordan, Skip Clemens and Jackie Silva are seen here, left, enjoying sunshine and conversation. Courtesy photo

Senior centers are more than “boring old people”

  • Friday, June 22, 2018 3:04pm
  • Life

When my daughter turned 50 last year, I showed her the cover of my Golden Opportunities brochure, the guide for seniors published by the Renton Senior Activity Center. It said it was for adults 50 and over, so I thought — cool, she and I can do activities there together. Unfortunately, she was less than enthusiastic about the idea.

Many people have these stereotypical images of what a senior center is, imagining boring old people playing bingo. But I learned the truth when I moved to Renton from California nine years ago. It was a difficult adjustment for me, since I had lived in California since 1951. Now, I think of Renton as my home, and I must give some credit to the Renton Senior Center. I started to wonder how other seniors in the area feel about the center and decided to investigate.

I contacted Betty McLain who has taught dancing classes at the center and was once the facilitator for my Writing for Fun group and asked for her thoughts about the center.

“No matter how tired I am when my little Toyota Yaris arrives at the center, I know I’m at home. When I plug in the speaker, dance music pours out and the fun begins! Problems, caregiving, illnesses are temporarily forgotten in this haven. I’ve been teaching for about 27 years here. It’s not work. I get the best benefits of all — new friendships and lots of hugs.”

I also met with Debbi Little, recreation supervisor at the Renton Senior Center. She is passionate about the center where she has worked for the last 29 years. She is somewhat like a cruise director on a journey for which we seniors in this area are happy to climb aboard. With a degree in Leisure Services from Central Washington University, she had many options, but in 1979 chose to work for the city of Renton as a recreation specialist. In this capacity, she taught lessons at neighborhood centers and worked with children in the Special Olympics programs.

“This is the best decision I ever made. It’s like going to work with your friends every day — both staff and participants,” she said. “Isolation is one of the most dangerous problems for seniors. This is a wonderful place to find social stimulation and learn new skills that engage the brain.”

Debbi has learned that even if area residents just want to come into the coffee bar and chat, it’s a healthy option compared to sitting home alone. There’s also a fitness center and plenty of classes for exercise, dance, art and computers. I heard about the Clutter Buster class. Who couldn’t benefit by that?

Bridging the technological age gap is becoming more important for seniors as we are being forced to face computerized challenges in our every day life.

There are services to help with legal problems, tax and insurance issues and many other senior needs. Even those who have not yet received their AARP cards, are benefiting from help with long-term financial planning.

I spoke with a few folks who attend the center:

Barb Bahner: “You never know who you’re going to meet here. I enjoy learning about the variety of experiences of people here. I like to hear their stories about their approach to life and personal journeys.”

Steve Riordan (a group facilitator): “A few years after retiring, my wife said I really needed to get a hobby or two! I love coming to the senior center and found out I love to paint watercolors. I also really enjoy the writing group, and the staff is very friendly, too.”

Skip Clemans: “I started coming to the center after my wife passed away. I tried other senior centers but I now drive here to Renton from Bellevue. I took some dance classes and then joined the writing group. I never wrote before but now I’m writing memoirs, science fiction and even poetry!”

Hisako Leatherman: “I have very positive feelings about every class I’ve taken. I play ping pong here, take computer classes and I have been writing about my childhood in Japan in the Writing for Fun group so my children and grandchildren can read about it.”

It’s very important to keep moving, keep learning and keep socializing. I want all younger people to know that getting old can have advantages — statistics have shown that retirement can be a great mood enhancer! The Renton Senior Activity Center is at 211 Burnett Ave N., Renton, WA 98057. You can contact Debbie Little at dlittle@rentonwa.gov or writer Jaris English at silverpen45@gmail.com.

More in Life

Cruz the Loop and Return to Renton Benefit Car Show set for July 6, 7

Hot Rod weekend, downtown, will have some street closures.

Join author Kurt Armbruster for a discussion of his latest book, “Pacific Coast, Seattle’s Own Railroad” at 6 p.m. May 16 at the Renton History Museum, 235 Mill Ave. S. Courtesy photo
Upcoming events: Pacific Coast Railroad history lesson; coffee with Renton cops

Symphony: Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra Spring Masterworks Concert will highlight Tchaikovsky’s Symphony… Continue reading

Renton Rotary’s Youth of the Month for May

Five Renton students were selected as May 2019 Youth of the Month to finish off the school year.

Gardeners love our veggie-friendly Western Washington climate

Here are the most incredible edibles to grow now.

A look back at Black River

Renton History Museum hosts event with Seattle writer and natural history expert David Williams.

It is a busy time in the garden with planting

Near the end of April the nurseries will be overflowing with color.… Continue reading

Thom Cantrell, one of the organizers of the upcoming International Conference for Primal People, holds up a mould of a Sasquatch footprint. He said the mould was taken in the Blue Mountains in Oregon by Paul Freeman, a well-known Sasquatch hunter who’s 1994 footage of a Sasquatch in that area made big waves in the believer and skeptic communities alike. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
All things Sasquatch in Enumclaw

Washington state is famous for countless reasons. It’s the birthplace of Starbucks… Continue reading

RHS Students gear up for Bubblin Brown Sugar dance competition

The competition is April 27 at Garfield High School.

Special police partners honored

King County Sheriff’s Office dedicates new memorial to honor K9 service dogs and handlers.

How to be a backyard micro farmer

Do you have a small space? Perhaps just a balcony or patio… Continue reading