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New senior center to have its grand opening Feb. 23

Date: 2/11/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE — It's a few minutes after 8 a.m. and already people are flowing into the new Holyoke Senior Center. Executive Director Kathy Bowler notes with a smile that by noon the center will be full of people participating in activities, having a meal or simply socializing.

The new center opened its doors on Dec. 3, 2012 and will be celebrating its official grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 23.

Located in the center of the city at 291 Pine St., there is a big difference from its former long-time home in the basement of the War Memorial on Maple Street. The two-story structure has been carefully designed, Bowler explained, to cater to seniors' needs and serve as an energy efficient building.

She noted the building uses a geothermal system for heating and cooling, and makes use of natural light through numerous windows and solar cells that carry natural light to hallways, The furnishings were made in America so there was less transportation costs and renewable building materials such as cork and bamboo were used as well as recycled steel and aluminum.

There is actually only one hall way in the building on the second floor and Bowler sais this was a design choice that clusters parts of the center closer together to minimize walking for those seniors who have difficulties.

Near the entrance is a flat- screen monitor that will be used for seniors to check into the center. Bowler said the system would allow the center's staff to know who is there and their medical history. Bowler explained that the program has already been used when a senior needed an ambulance. The staff was able to provide the emergency medical technician for information about the person.

The largest part of the center is a combination auditorium and cafeteria. The new kitchen abuts that space. Bowler said the participation in the daily lunch program has jumped dramatically from 80 seniors when the center was at the War Memorial to 247 people now.

On the first level is a library area that is being stocked with a variety of donated books and a living room with a gas fireplace. A new feature that just opened is the center's café that serves hot and cold beverages and muffins in the morning. Near the café is the fitness room, which is still under construction.

Upstairs is an open games area and a large activity room in which a group of seniors were undergoing therapy for osteoporosis. Across from that room is a room that Bowler said will be the computer room but is now being used for tax return preparations.

The second floor is also the location for an arts and crafts room with kilns for ceramics and a kitchen for cooking classes.

The activities offered by the center now include, arthritis exercises, a writing class, band rehearsals, painting, free movies, Zumba, needle craft, card games including pitch and pinochle, bingo, billiards and chair yoga.

"And there will be a lot more to come," Bowler added.

Although clearly delighted with the new center, Bowler explained that when it opened in the basement of the War Memorial in the late 1960s, "it was seen as a trailblazer."

She added, "That space served us well for many years."

The hours for the center are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For additional information, call 322-5625.