Senior Recreation Center celebrates its first anniversary

Programs keep seniors involved and engaged


Seniors take a yoga session at the Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center at 5701 NW 34th Street in Gainesville on Dec. 7, 2012.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 11:41 a.m.

It's hump day for members of Marjorie Malerk's belly dancing class.

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Seniors take a yoga session at the Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center at 5701 NW 34th Street in Gainesville on Dec. 7, 2012.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

FYI

ElderCare of Alachua County
What: A multiservice center where seniors can socialize, access services, participate in educational activities, volunteer and stay engaged.
Where: 5701 NW 34th St. Accessible via RTS bus Route 8.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; rooms available to rent for private functions on weeknights and weekends.
For more information: Contact the center at 265-9040, or visit ElderCare of Alachua County's website at eldercare.ufandshands.org
For a complete list of classes and meeting dates, go to http://eldercare.ufandshands.org/senior-recreation-center/senior-recreation-center-calendar/

Every Wednesday for an hour, class members roll their hips and lift their sternums at the free course held at the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center.

The low-impact exercise helps build bone density, aids in straightening posture and improves memory, Malerk said. The women who attend, wearing sashes and cymbals, walk away with more than an exercise routine. It's a social activity.

"People will come up to me," Malerk said, "and tell me, ‘I hate to go to the gym, but this is so much fun.'"

Malerk's weekly belly dance class is just one of the programs offered at the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center, which celebrated its first anniversary in October.

The idea for a recreation center to serve as a hub for Gainesville's senior population began four years ago, said Anthony Clarizio, the center's director.

At the time, there wasn't a clear plan of what the center would do, or where it would be. High Springs, Melrose and Alachua were considered as locations so people would have easy access.

Funding, he said, has made the center in Gainesville the only location. Construction cost $5.5 million, with funds coming from the state and Wild Spaces and Public Places. Clarizio said he hopes there will be satellite locations in the future.

Six hundred people attended the 2011 ribbon-cutting ceremony. Clarizio said he hoped 1,000 people would come to the center for services. He got 3,900 instead.

"First, it's amazing to see that the community came together to make this center possible," Clarizio said. "The (number) of people who have signed up shows that there is a need for a center here."

The classes are free and span a variety of topics from yoga and Zumba to learning to use computers and playing bingo, Clarizio said.

New courses are added all the time. Malerk, who teaches a belly dancing class at Santa Fe College, approached the recreation center with the idea of starting a course there, too. In September, her class began with about 20 people.

The class helps address a common physical setback among older people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 327,000 hip replacements a year. The pivoting dance moves pump oxygenated blood into the pelvic region, helping to increase hip strength.

ElderCare, the agency, focused on promoting services that benefit Alachua County seniors, covers the center's annual budget, which runs between $175,000 and $200,000 a year, Clarizio said. The event coordinator is the only paid position, with items necessities like electricity and tasks like cleaning accounting for the rest of the budget.

For those interested in attending programs at the center, Clarizio said all they have to do is show up at the center, fill out registration paperwork and list classes they'd like to attend. Then they get a card to bring with them to sign in every time they attend a class.

If someone is unsure of what to enroll in, Clarizio said, the center hosts a new member orientation at the beginning of each month. The center's goal is to find a program that every person interested in joining the center can participate in.

"People want to come out and have somewhere where they can actively participate," Clarizio said. "We want to provide that for them."

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