The Lincoln aging agency is considering closing four of the six local senior centers and consolidating services out of the remaining two -- downtown and in Havelock.
June Pederson, director of Aging Partners, said although the city is knee-deep in budgeting, her proposal to consolidate senior centers is not a budget cut. It's an effort to deal with declining participation in those four senior centers and offer their participants more services.
"When you have 18 participants in one place, 12 in another, nine on a good day in another ... it's really hard to justify a full-time employee," Pederson said. "It's impossible to give nine to 12 people the breadth of programming that we could give 50 to 100."
However, no employees would be laid off. They would move to the downtown senior center and enable the downtown center to expand its hours, offer breakfast occasionally and start a salad bar. The rent money saved would be used to offer free rides to the senior centers; seniors currently pay $2 per ride.
The downtown senior center also is closer to a downtown building where fitness classes are offered to people older than 60, Pederson said.
Aging Partners employees have begun informing people at the senior centers of the proposal, and Pederson admits the seniors were skeptical.
"I would have to say, graciously, they've not been pleased," she said of the reaction. "Once they get over the initial surprise and disappointment, I really think they'll enjoy it."
She said declining participation in senior centers is a national problem.
"The boomers are here, and we're not seeing them. So we're clearly not offering things that appeal to them."
The four senior centers that might close are:
- St. James United Methodist Church basement, 2400 S. 11th St., which attracted an average of 26 people per day in June.
- Belmont Recreation Center, 1234 Judson St., which is open three days per week and averaged 19 people per day in June.
- Maxey Senior Center, which is located in the Malone Center, 2032 U St., is open two days per week and averaged 16 people per day in June.
- Asian Center, 2615 O St., which meets one afternoon per week and caters to Asian people. In June the center averaged 94 people per day.
Pederson said the proposal will be presented to the Lincoln City Council in September.
The mayor's office put out a statement Tuesday saying, "They are still discussing the proposal with our office and the City Council. We plan a full public discussion this fall on the issue to hear what people have to say before Aging moves forward."
Reach Deena Winter at 473-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.