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Shanti Emerson: A place of our own

Shanti Emerson

There are a lot of vulnerable seniors who need to have a place to go and meet others. There are many elders who aren’t lonely or needy who would love to have a place to go to play bridge, learn more about computers, have a meal, do Tai Chi or Qigong, and make new friends. 

We need a place where clubs can meet and keep us mentally and physically engaged. A place to share information and life experiences, write memoirs, listen to lectures and enjoy performances.

Nevada County is reputed as having the oldest citizens per capita in California, and it’s us they are talking about.  We who were born in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s deserve a senior center.



So much attention and millions of dollars go to the homeless and to the arts, two deserving causes, but aren’t we equally deserving? Shouldn’t those of us who have worked, volunteered and given to society for decades be honored with our own place?

We are a caring and supportive county with a huge number of seniors. We deserve a place of our own!

Where would we find such a place? We’d probably have to build it anew, perhaps at the long time vacant HEW building site in Nevada City.  It would take both villages to do it and a number of our nonprofits to collaborate to come up with a plan.



Recently on a trip to Southern California, I visited three robust senior centers. 

The South Pasadena Senior Center is in the same building as the library. Among other subjects, they teach mindfulness meditation and ballroom and line dancing. There are walking groups, support groups for illnesses such as cancer or Parkinson’s, Spanish and Italian lessons, creative writing classes, elder wisdom meetings, crochet and knitting etc. The membership price is $20 per year and the YWCA provides daily meals for $3.

In Pasadena, the city provides the building for Senior Center, but all funding is raised by the Center itself rather than by the government. The Center shows movies and offers a Masters Series for Lifelong Learning, in which experts in various fields come to talk to the 10,000 seniors who visit each year. Their goal is to “discover new opportunities to engage in social interaction, to offer activities to keep their minds sharp, bodies healthy, and spirits soaring, and continue lifelong learning.”

At the Altadena Senior Center, located next to the library, between 100-200 people come every day. The center is an arm of the Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services Department and has an independent/autonomous support group which raises funds and plans festivals and celebrations. There is a fitness center with treadmills and weights, a computer lab, classes on nutrition, arts and crafts groups, dances and special events, book clubs and planned trips.

In Orange County (where I didn’t visit), the Age Well Senior Services is a nonprofit, public benefit 501(C)(3) organization located in Laguna Hills. Since 1975, Age Well has been providing critical services, resources, and programs to seniors living in South Orange County. They are committed to finding solutions to the evolving challenges that seniors face today. Although Age Well receives government funding from Older Americans Act (enacted in 1965), their services still rely heavily on donations in order to continue running. 

Closer to home, the Auburn Senior Center’s mission is “to honor the dignity of seniors by enriching their quality of life while supporting their independence and vitality. We promote their participation in all aspects of community life by providing opportunities for socialization, recreation, education, information, health and fitness. We provide seniors over 50 with opportunities for socializing, activities, classes, and special events to remain active and independent.” It is self-funded and “operates from memberships, class fees, room rental, travel and tour operations and donations through direct contributions and fundraisers. (Auburn Senior Center) does not receive tax money. The continued existence of the Center is solely dependent on the sources mentioned. The Center is organized under Revenue code 501(c)(3) and all donations are tax deductible.” Yearly dues are only $25 for singles and $40 for couples.

All of these centers have health and wellness programs consisting of various preventative health classes, screenings, and informational seminars.

I can’t do more than make this bugle call. Funding (and it’ll cost a lot of money) and partnerships (maybe Meals on Wheels and FREED), I leave to others with far more knowledge about this sort of thing.

We are a caring and supportive county with a huge number of seniors. We deserve a place of our own!

If you agree, please email me at The Union.

Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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