Lakeville Senior Center prepares for aging population

  • Updated: April 27, 2013 - 2:09 PM

Lakeville’s senior center has settled into its spacious new home, where it’s been able to expand its programs.

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Seniors studied Spanish at the center. From left are Richard Wicklund, Linda Mayer, Betty Keohokalole, Walt Richie, Bev Haze and teacher Dolores Attias.

Photo: Photos by LIALA HELAL • liala.helal@startribune.com ,

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When Betty Keohokalole decided to learn Spanish, she signed up for a rigorous class at a community college. The retired Apple Valley resident found it too fast paced, so she looked elsewhere.

“I wanted to learn something at my own pace — I wanted it to be enjoyable,” she said. “And going back to school was not enjoyable. I had already been to college, already got my degree, so it wasn’t necessary for me to do it that way.”

Her search led her to the Lakeville Senior Center, where she takes a less formal class with about six other seniors, ages 50 to 90, and learns from a native Spanish speaker — Dolores Attias, who has lived in Cuba and Spain.

Keohokalole is one of the center’s close to 1,000 members, 150 of whom are active. As Lakeville prepares for an increase in retired adults from the baby boomer generation, the center aims to offer a larger variety of programming to meet demands of a generation that is more active and expects more opportunities.

The center moved to a larger space in October, at the new Heritage Center, where leaders say seniors finally have adequate space and there’s room for more. It’s a place that’s home to more than 200 programs each month — like Zumba and pickleball, bus tours and overseas trips, and workshops on how to get legal help or stay healthy. Keohokalole tried classes in line dancing and yoga when the center took its new home.

Center leaders added education in technology and computers when the center relocated. Seniors can also join clubs such as a motorcycle club and diner’s club. The center is open to non-Lakeville residents as well.

“It’s a more defined space,” said Brett Altergott, Lakeville’s director of parks and recreation, which oversees the senior center. “Before, if you wanted to have multiple programs, it’d be like being in corners.”

Linda Walter, the senior center’s coordinator for the past 18 years, has seen it evolve.

The first senior group in the community got together at homes and played cards. Then St. John’s Lutheran Church gave them space in their parish. Later, the city parks and recreation director at the time, Steve Michaud, asked them if they wanted to “join forces,” Walter said.

At first, the group focused on social activities. “A lot of them were farmers, and they enjoyed the social aspects,” Walter said. “Now, people are expanding, and they want more things. Seniors are more service-oriented, they’re more into health and educational things. With all this technology, they didn’t have that in schools, so they need to go somewhere for that.”

Keohokalole agrees, saying in her mother and father’s days, those who retired expected to do more things around the house. And with retirement or the loss of a spouse, seniors have a new perspective on the importance of social connections.

Some who use the senior center hadn’t had many social activities outside of work, but now seek a place to go in the mornings as motivation to get out of bed.

“Socializing — I think for everyone, it’s the key to avoid loneliness and depression,” Keohokalole said.

Senior stigma

The word “senior” may not accurately describe the members of the center, Walter said. She caters to those as young as 50, some of whom are still working.

Lakeville’s center and others across the nation want people to know they are for “mature adults,” she said. “A lot of the younger generation [in their 50s] doesn’t want to come into a building that has ‘senior’ attached to it — they don’t want that stigma,” Walter said.

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  • Left: Seniors can register for more than 200 activities each month.

  • Above:  Ron Bailey, center, played Wii bowling at the senior center as his group members looked on. From left are Doraine Ryan, Tom Holten, Ron Bailey, Joann Teal and Margaret Havemeier.

  • Left:  Peggy Novisky of Lakeville knitted a blanket for a Dora doll for a friend at a knitting group at the Lakeville Senior Center.

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