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April 4, 2014

Senior Center in Jeffersonville forms steering committee

Group addresses nonsenior attendance, organized activities

JEFFERSONVILLE — Viola Toney, who regularly visits the Ken Ellis Senior Center in Jeffersonville, said she’d love for more people her age to join her.

“This is a wonderful facility, and it’s just underutilized,” Toney, a Jeffersonville resident, said.

That’s why she’s joined a newly formed steering committee at the center, made up of five seniors, who organize activities in the hopes that attendance at the center will grow.

However, the center’s attendance has grown in a completely different and undesired way — a handful of nonseniors have been using the facility lately.

“We do not like it,” Toney said.

The issue was brought up at the Jeffersonville Parks Authority meeting last week at the request of steering committee members.

Jeffersonville Parks and Recreation Director Paul Northam said that the facility on Bates-Bower Avenue may have to start issuing membership cards for those who actually qualify as seniors.

Among this group of nonseniors, he said the center has had a group of mentally disabled adults come to bingo, most of whom are under the age of 65, and a transient woman is at the facility every day from open to close who also is not a senior.

The parks board agreed that something should be done to keep the general public from using the facility, especially because it is clearly labeled as a center exclusively for seniors.

Northam said one of the reasons the younger crowd has been coming to the facility is to take advantage of the free amenities, including a computer room and weight room.

“ ... Why pay to go to a health clinic to walk on a treadmill when they can go in there for free?” he said. “It’s a double-edged sword. I hate to tell them that they can’t come in there, but it is a senior center.”

Toney said she has been encouraging seniors to fill out membership applications.

“You’ve lived all these years to become a senior,” she said. “And then you have a senior center — and it should be seniors.”

Another member of the steering committee, Jeffersonville resident Jean Bostock, said she agrees.

“This building is for seniors,” said Bostock, who also believes admittance should be limited to seniors only. “You get all kinds of people if you don’t.”

Toney said she has no problem with the parks department using the facility for other events, but not during regular hours.

“What they do with this building when there’s no seniors involved, I don’t care,” she said. “But when there’s senior time, I don’t think we should have to [share the space with nonseniors].”

Northam said that he has a mock contract made up for exclusive membership and plans to discuss the idea in more depth with Nikki Dillon, who oversees the center, next week.

Other than the unwelcome attendance, the steering committee has also been addressing planned activities, such as games and pitch-in dinners.

“We just want this to be a happy place, an active place,” Toney said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, and we hope the steering committee will help.

“It’s just a step.”

Although the committee has only met once, they have organized monthly bunco, to be on the first Monday of the month at noon. Other free activities at the center include bingo on Tuesday and Thursdays at noon and free blood pressure screenings on the first Tuesday of the month at 10 a.m.

Willie Jones, an employee of the Ken Ellis Senior Center since 2008, said she thinks it’s good for seniors to socialize with people who are the same age.

“They connect and they can talk about their problems,” Jones said.

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