MARSHFIELD — Carol Hamilton has had visions of this day for over 20 years.
“We like to think people will see this as a cool new hangout,” she said.
Those are encouraging words for a place – a community center for the elderly – once associated primarily with “old people”.
When Hamilton started as director of the Marshfield Council on Aging in 1998, the senior center was just a room in the Ventress Memorial Library. This month, the center began welcoming people to its expanded two-story home at 230 Webster Street.
It’s part of a transformation in how local towns view life after 60, even 50, for its residents and those in neighboring communities.
With architectural and design features that are both fashionable and practical, the senior center that opened in 2003 has nearly doubled in size to 12,600 square feet. The sleek two-story addition added 11,200 square feet with enhanced exercise options and made flexible fun more possible.
“We were so crowded before,” said Sheila Gagnon, former counselor and vice chair of the council on aging. “We owe the city a debt of gratitude.”
Gagnon played a key role in the five-year campaign to gain city support for a bigger and better senior center.
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“Fortunately, we built this at a time when we got a good interest rate on the bond,” she said. “We were proud to finish on time and on budget. But it was an exceptional vote of confidence in Carol Hamilton. He is an amazing person who was constantly striving to have more services and to put seniors at ease.
When she came on board 24 years ago this month, Hamilton, a resident of Braintree, quickly developed ideas about what programs could be added.
Exercise classes. Artistic workshops. Dance. Tai chi. Lifelong learning. Bridge. Wood carving. Pickleball. The day social reception for people with memory loss, started last year during the pandemic, could soon increase to three days.
Preparations for the inauguration are underway
The grand opening and celebration of the expanded senior center will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 25 at 230 Webster Street. Shuttle transportation will be provided. The free event includes a catered lunch at noon, entertainment at 1 p.m., memorabilia and tours.
Dr. Jan Mutchler, director of the UMass-Boston Institute of Gerontology, and several local government officials will speak.
Last week, as Hamilton and Merilee Comerford, activities coordinator, helped direct seniors to classes in the new space, there was a buzz of excitement.
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In the gym, John Bartos, a retired lawyer, familiarized himself with exercise equipment specially selected for seniors.
“I did two sets,” on the chest press, he told Kristen Noonan, the staff volunteer coordinator. Noonan has a fitness background and teaches seniors how to use ellipticals, treadmills, recumbent bikes, the stretch cage, bench press and other equipment.
“I’m here to get the body cut,” Bartos said. “Fortunately, all I have to do is firm it up.”
His doctor cleared him for up to 50 minutes of training. After retirement, Bartos and his wife moved from California to Marshfield to be near their daughter, Alexandra Sullivan, principal of Deer Hill School in Cohasset.
Other South Shore communities – Duxbury, Scituate, Cohasset – have also made major additions or built new senior centers in recent years. Each has been a transformation for the elderly population of this city.
“I couldn’t even have imagined what it would look like,” Hamilton said. “Some people have asked, ‘Why do we need all this space?’ but once they’re there, it’s a whole new world.”
New additions to senior center
One of the main additions is the Seaflower Cafe, with a varied breakfast and light lunch menu provided by experienced food service manager Jim Lowell.
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The new gymnasium has a special shock absorbing floor which is easier on the joints. The dance studio has a softer suspended floor and mirrors and bars for balance. The games room currently has table tennis but will soon have two standard billiard tables.
There is a secondary health room; a new media room for streaming movies and Zoom groups; a secondary art studio as classes grow, a multi-sport gym and a beauty salon.
Outside, a walking path circles the ball diamonds and connects to the Webster Wilderness Trail. The bocce court, outdoor table tennis tables and pickleball courts adjoin vast new parking areas.
For security, there are security cameras in the common areas, and once their activity is over, seniors can head to the salon’s massage chair.
“We’ve always tried to meet people’s needs and what they want and keep them healthy,” Hamilton said. The center is setting up a discussion group to attract more men. More space will mean “more robust” programming, more flexibility in moving activities around, making room for an extra movie or an impromptu panel discussion.
“We will be able to expand and improve what we offer our senior community,” Hamilton said.
“The center has always been a warm and active place and the fabulous two-story addition makes it even better,” said Matt Currie, who served on the building’s advisory board.
In 2019, people aged 60 and over made up 28% of Marshfield; over the next 10 years, this figure is expected to rise to between 36 and 38%.
“While the school population has been trending down, the city’s population has remained stable, but more baby boomers are aging in place and becoming a bigger part,” Hamilton said.
“Because people are excited about the expansion, they bring in other people to show them. , it encourages other people to come.”
Contact Sue Scheible at [email protected]
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