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Meaning & Metaphor - What Is A Senior Center?

Dec 28, 2006
Michael Hogan

We in the Twp of Washington have what may be the finest facilty for seniors in the known universe. Yet, it remains unused 28 or 29 days a month. When I speak about this fine facility at council meetings, I use the metaphor - locked out. Unfortunately, metaphor is often misunderstood. A man at the post office today told me the door is open, as he had personally checked.

The unlocked door can be deceiving. When I recently used the toilet in the Jack Woods Senior Center, two policemen came in and escorted me out. In any case, the unlocked admission to an empty room is not what I perceive to be a community center. In addition to a building with a fine room, people are needed to fill the room. Why? One person or 3 or 4 friends is not a community? The group needs to be larger then that to be a community. Where did I get the idea for a community center with people?

An unknown American at a VFW meeting told me it would be helpful if his father had a community center to go to in the daytime. Therefore, in addition to people, the senior center would need to be open 9-5 M-F, so the father of the man at the VFW meeting would have a place to socialize with other folks his age when he felt like it. Let's call it what it is - socializing with other human beings. Retired folks have the time needed to socialize.

That's it. Rather then merely a fine building, a senior center requires people and time. Nothing more is needed. In fact, less is more. No municipal employee need be hired. No volunteers would be needed. We are talking about the most mature among us. Certainly, those with the most life experiences can organize and manage the center themselves. How would such a center evolve? I don't know? The process of attendence and organization would be the most interesting part of the experience. There would no doubt be those who will have ideas. Every idea should be considered with total respect!

When the future unfolds and we have a senior center free of government and volunteers, I will have one suggestion (it would be difficult to accomodate more then one idea per resident). In my mother-in-laws community center (senior ctr) they do many fine things. Therefore, I could make many suggestions based on Maria's experience at her center. However, there is one thing that stands out above all the rest. I suggest children and teens from the Westwood Regional School System be invited to interact with seniors in the Jack Woods Senior Center. Again, this would not cost a thin dime.

What I have been doing is trying to explain the concept of community to a Post Modern world of heroic narcissistic materialism in which the individual reigns supreme. In such a society it is difficult for folks to conceive of community and the commonweal. This is why it would be useful to have the most mature among us explain how community used to be when it existed long ago before virtual reality.
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