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He said boomers like one-time classes on health and other topics, and line dancing or Zumba Gold, a vigorous dance-like exercise that is gaining popularity with younger seniors across the country.
Thompson, of Fridley, is well respected among her peers and won the Outstanding Senior Services Award in 2008 from the Minnesota Association of Senior Services, a professional group of senior service providers. “Connie is a great team player,” said Michele Starkey, former association president. “Her seniors are crazy about her.”
Last week the center was alive with seniors playing cards, taking yoga classes and volunteering to serve lunch to other seniors. They like Thompson’s enthusiasm and willingness to try new activities, including some they suggest.
“She is irreplaceable,” said Muriel Lombard, 77, sitting in a room of 500 card players on a Tuesday morning. “She is the most caring and helpful and able.”
“She always comes up with something new and interesting for us,” said Caryl Weaver, 77, after her gentle-stretch yoga class last week.
Thompson’s boss, Parks and Recreation Director Jack Kirk, has known her for 40 years, since they both majored in park and recreation administration at the University of Minnesota.
Kirk said Thompson’s Encore events attract 60-somethings who like to socialize with their peers, but wouldn’t sign up for a “senior” program. “A name can make a difference,” he said.
Kirk said Thompson is a dedicated, creative coordinator always looking for ways to improve. He said she also suggests ideas for other programs, like youth activities, the area where she started working with the city 34 years ago while spending 10 hours a week on senior programs. She became a full-time senior coordinator in 1987, and now earns about $72,000 a year. She has two part-time assistants, paid with federal grants for senior programs.
Thompson said she loves her job and has no immediate plans to retire. But maybe by age 64, because “I have a grandson in Wisconsin.”
Jim Adams • 612-673-7658