By Myrt Bowers
The Witwer Senior Center survived the epic flood of 2008, thanks to strong support from our community. Financial assistance from local foundations and a willingness to share space by local organizations showed a commitment to the older adults in Cedar Rapids and other Linn County communities.
The Witwer staff and board ensured that Senior Center programs continued, providing some normalcy to many seniors who had lost their homes. The Witwer Center now shares space with Green Square Meals at the Ecumenical Community Center at 605 Second Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids.
The need for senior centers is growing. With seniors living longer and more active lives, and with more baby boomers turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day, the United States is experiencing historic growth in the 65-plus demographic. This growth is pressing communities to think differently and more broadly about a whole host of issues: housing, transportation, health and wellness programs, social and leisure activities, lifelong learning opportunities, cultural events, and more. Beginning with health and wellness programs, all of these activities are part of vibrant senior centers across the United States.
The award-winning Witwer Center provides many of the programs named above. Most recently, a series of technology classes is being held for older adults to improve computer skills.
These programs and a host of other social and leisure activities are now held in one room, as opposed to the 12,000 square feet the Witwer Center occupied before the flood. Some programs are held in other facilities.
Research shows older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease, and that they experience measurable improvement in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well being while living independently in their homes.
Seniors in Cedar Rapids deserve more than just one room for activities and programs to strengthen their longevity and quality of life. Witwer Center is working to develop a new senior center location.
The Gazette Editorial staff this summer concluded it will take collaboration and a champion to create a new senior center in Cedar Rapids. It appears Witwer Center has found a champion in Linn County Supervisor Lu Barron, who has initiated conversation with other leaders in the community. The seniors of Linn County are anxiously awaiting the next steps and deservedly so!
l Myrt Bowers is Associate Executive Director, Witwer Center Healthy Lifestyle Programs, Aging Services Inc. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org