Local News

Raleigh Considering Study For Cost Of Senior Center

Posted December 13, 2005 5:31 a.m. EST

— Our population is only getting older and staying alive longer.

And, as the trend continues, senior centers are likely to gain importance.

Garner has one, so does Chapel Hill and Cary. But, Raleigh does not have a senior center run by the city or county.

New efforts are under way to build a state of the art senior center in the Capital City -- something some say is long overdue.

Right now the only senior center in Raleigh is in a building on Whitaker Mill Road.

One side is occupied by Wake County Human Services, the senior center is on the other side, run by a non profit, not by the city or county.

Many other senior clubs meet at local churches and community centers. With baby boomers and the exploding senior population, advocates say it's time for seniors to have a place to call their own.

During line dancing at lunch, the Whitaker Mill Senior Center dance room is packed.

"It's friendship, it's shaking your booty, it's having fun," says dancer Geri Salyer.

In the future, this center is likely to get much more play.

Right now, Wake County's over 65 residents make up nearly 8 percent of the population. By the year 2020, they will be 12 percent. That makes Wake County the fastest growing 65 and older community in the state.

"Frankly, we haven't looked after our older population," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

Meeker says a state of the art senior center should be a priority.

Members of the Senior Adult Action Group, known as SAAG, believe Raleigh should be a step ahead, not behind, its neighbors. "We are the capital city," said SAAG Chairman Jean Pope.

SAAG is now actively lobbying the city and county to provide a stand alone center with a long list of programs for older adults. "It gives them a purpose of the day. We exercise the body and the mind. We need that," said Pope.

Tuesday, a city committee authorized the city manager to start looking into how much it would cost to have a study done.

Meeker wants a study to look at the best centralized location for a center, operating costs and what facilities should be included -- with one idea being a pool.

Wake County may fund a small portion of the total cost of the center.