UPDATE: The Fresno City Council unanimously voted Thursday afternoon to accept the report of a senior citizen task force providing recommendations for establishing a senior center in the city.
The ceremonial vote came after individual council members expressed support for the goal of creating a center.
“Mayor (Lee) Brand is very supportive of this, and his staff will come up with a business for the council to consider” for funding a senior center, interim assistant city manager Bruce Rudd told the council. “Our goal is to come back to the council within 90 days with a business plan and options to consider” to include launching a senior center in the 2018-19 budget year.
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Fresno has about 57,000 residents who are considered “senior citizens” – age 62 and older. But California’s fifth largest city lacks even one dedicated senior citizens center for its older population. A task force organized earlier this year by Fresno City Council president Clint Olivier hopes to change that.
The task force, headed by former State Center Community College District trustee Dorothy “Dottie” Smith, will present to the City Council on Thursday its report and recommendations toward establishing a senior center. The issue is on the council’s schedule for 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.
“I don’t want people to get the wrong idea – there are centers, and we do have services for seniors throughout the city,” Smith said Wednesday, referring to hot-meal programs and other activities for seniors at community centers operated by Fresno’s Parks, After-School, Recreation and Community Services department. “But we’re looking to find a center, a place, a location that is suitable for the senior citizens of Fresno. The focus of our committee is to hopefully have one designated facility to be the senior center for the city of Fresno.”
The focus of our committee is to hopefully have one designated facility to be THE senior center for the city of Fresno.
Dorothy “Dottie” Smith, chairwoman of a senior citizens task force established by City Councilman Clint Olivier
“If you say ‘the Fresno Senior Citizens Center,’ that would be just like saying ‘the Clovis Senior Citizens Center,’ ” she added. “It’s the place that everyone knows as the senior center.”
The 23-member task force has been meeting since April, and its members represent a diverse cross-section of Fresno’s older population. And that led to a range of opinions throughout the process regarding location, safety, activities and more. “What made it workable is that we all wanted the same thing, but how we go about getting there may be different in terms of the discussion,” Smith said. “We all want a senior center, and we had debates and discussion, but at the end of the day – and at the end of our meetings – we all agreed.”
Fresno’s PARCS department operates six community centers across the city that host senior hot-meal programs by the Fresno-Madera Area Agency on Aging and the Economic Opportunities Commission. In addition to programs for all ages, some of those locations offer activities for seniors including ceramics, exercise classes and bingo games. The task force is recommending that those centers remain open for seniors in those parts of the city. “However, the need for a single senior center remains,” the report states.
The report notes that while Fresno lacks a senior center, other cities in the region and in the state do have centers – some more than one. In the Valley, the much smaller cities of Clovis, Orange Cove, Huron, Exeter and others “provide their older adults a place to socialize, eat and participate in activities that keep them healthy mentally and physically.”
The report recommends that a future center include amenities such as an exercise room and dance floor, lounge space, space for hot meals, bingo, pool tables, a library with computer access and a technology room with classes. The task force also suggests that a range of donations, foundation contributions and grants could help underwrite the cost of developing and operating a senior center.
While the task force recommends features and activities that would be desirable, the report does not specify a particular location. “What we tried to do is talk about issues of transportation, access, safety and health,” Smith said. “Even if we have a designated senior center, maybe someone goes to the Ted C. Wills Center (in central Fresno) because they like going there, it’s in their neighborhood. But if there’s a service or activity that’s not offered there and is at the (main) senior center, that’s where transportation comes in; they can hop on a bus and get there.”