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The Senior Center isn't just for Seniors: 4 Under 60's Tell Us Why

Clockwise from top left: Joe Woodman, Lisa Bragdon,Tracy Phillips, Mark Duquette

Every day, 11,000 senior centers across the U.S. serve approximately one million 50 years or older Americans. In Bellingham, the numbers are slightly lower (of course), but we were interested in why those under 60 years of age come to our Senior Center. So we asked four of them, and their reasons are reported below.

“It’s an opportunity to connect,” explains Lisa Bragdon, 51, “you meet different people over shared interests and activities. Come take a program, visit a fair, have breakfast, take a tour.”

For Joe Woodman, 58, the attraction was learning to paint. He was a tattoo artist for more than 20 years until a disability cut his career short. “Painting on a canvas is much different than tattooing on human flesh,” Woodman explains. He’s attending class now with Darrell Crow who he describes as “a character… funny… awesome artist… great teacher.”

Mark Duquette, 53, wanted to learn to play the guitar. He shows up every Tuesday morning for lessons, but his experience at the Senior Center has become much more.

“After the lesson, I like to shoot pool with the guys… Ben and Gunther, to name two. These guys will tell you stories and it’s pretty entertaining,” says Duquette. “You learn a lot from older people and it gives you perspective.”

“A lot of the reason I started coming to the Center was to spend more time with my mom,” recalls Tracey Phillips, 57, and daughter of Betty Willey, a longtime member of the Council on Aging’s Board. Phil-lips works at two jobs and has to make the most of her time.

“We play cribbage and canasta and talk,” she says. “And if you don’t know how to play, people will take the time to teach you.”

Bragdon’s aunt, Estelle, was also a regular at the Center. “We attended the Memory Café… the music was wonderful, we painted a jewelry box, and she responded very positively.”

She makes the point that at the Center, caregivers can find a respite from their duties. “It’s a safe place to bring clients and family members.”

At the Center, you can gain access to fun trips, special events, fine arts and crafts, music and dance, life-long learning, fitness and health, volunteer opportunities, tasty dining, financial/legal and health insurance counseling. It’s all free, or very reasonably priced.

But, perhaps above all this is the opportunity to connect.

“I like hanging out, talking with the old timers,” says Duquette, who spent 25 years as an auxiliary police officer in Bellingham. Phillips invites folks to “come on in, do some talking… there’s a wealth of knowledge, someone has probably already been through what you’re going through.”

Woodman, who lives in Webster, says “come and explore, look at the bulletin board and find things that pique your interest. There’s a great staff here that will help you connect to your interests.”

Bragdon, a former special education teacher, reports that “there’s a diversity of programs that appeal to lots of people.” More chances to connect.

So, if you are not already acquainted with all the Senior Center has to offer, then come in for a tour, a cup of coffee, and a chat with executive director Josie Dutil who, by the way, is 51 and loves being here. Here’s how to connect: (508) 966-0398.





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