ALACHUA COUNTY, FL – Until now, Alachua County was among the few counties in Florida that did not have a dedicated multiservice senior center to provide for the needs of our senior citizens. That is about to change. Local officials are preparing to celebrate the grand opening of the City of Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center at Northside Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. Senior citizens in Gainesville and Alachua County will soon be able to gather in a new state-of-the-art senior recreational center located at 5701 NW 34th St. in Gainesville, Fla. that will provide area seniors a well-deserved place to exercise, interact socially, and access vital medical services.
“The Senior Recreation Center at Northside Park represents a significant investment in the human capital of Gainesville and Alachua County senior citizens that we can all take pride in,” said Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe. “I am pleased that Gainesville and county residents voted to build this needed center for our seniors, in part through their support of the Wild Spaces-Public Places funding initiative.”
The Senior Recreation Center is build to energy-efficient, LEED silver certification standards. A portion of the center is a hardened facility capable of withstanding Category 3 hurricane winds, which allows the center to operate as an emergency shelter resource. The building’s senior-centric construction features a practical design that maximizes access to variety of activities for all seniors. The $5 million, 17,000-square-foot recreation and activity center will also house ElderCare of Alachua County and other community agency staff.
“This Center demonstrates what can be accomplished for our most vulnerable populations when we harness the collaborative resources of state, county, city, and non-profit agencies to accomplish the greater good for our community,” said Alachua County Commission Chair Lee Pinkoson. “This wise investment in our community will yield exponential dividends for years to come.”
Funding for the Senior Recreation Center is the result of a close working partnership between the City of Gainesville, Alachua County, ElderCare of Alachua County, and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. The City of Gainesville and Alachua County each contributed $1.5 million to the project from revenue generated by the Wild Spaces-Public Places funding initiative approved by voters in 2008. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs awarded a $2 million state grant to help complete funding for the project. ElderCare of Alachua County will operate the facility and provide management and coordination for on-going senior programs, activities, and services.
“It takes many people working together within our community to bring a center like this from a vision to reality, and still more people to provide the full range of services it will offer for our deserving seniors,” said Anthony Clarizio, Director of ElderCare of Alachua County. “This facility is a milestone in the development of community assets to provide meaningful support to a growing senior citizen population in Gainesville and Alachua County.”
The Senior Recreation Center is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and is equipped with comfortable, functional furniture that complements the soothing color palette selected for the facility. Other amenities include: professionally landscaped building exteriors; Wi-Fi accessibility throughout the facility; a welcoming reception area and cozy library space complete with fireplace; a spacious multipurpose room that can function as a ballroom, auditorium, exercise space or subdivide into as many as three meeting rooms; a professional caterer’s kitchen; a fully equipped computer lab; a state-of-the-art monitored exercise room; six instructional classrooms; a recreational activity room equipped with table tennis and pool tables; and office space for center staff.
The center’s Northside Park location enables the city’s Regional Transportation System to provide ADA-compliant bus service to the center’s front door via RTS bus route no. 8, which travels a route from Shands Hospital on Southwest Archer Road to the Northwood Village area and back. Additionally, MV Transportation, the community transportation coordinator for all local para-transit services, will also provide door-to-door service to those eligible to receive this transportation service.
In Alachua County, more than 38,000 people are age 60 or older and estimates are that 25 percent live alone. Nearly 15 percent (5,087) of Alachua County seniors age 60 or older live at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. These numbers are expected to increase considerably as aging baby boomers move into their golden years. The new Senior Recreation Center will serve as an active space where seniors can engage in activities, socialization and experience an enhanced community connectedness that can prevent depression, decrease isolation, and increase their quality of life.
For more information, please contact Anthony Clarizio of ElderCare of Alachua County, Inc., at 352-265-9040 or by email at Eldcare@shands.ufl.edu.