<p class="p1"><strong>The Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool is Seattle Parks and Recreation&rsquo;s newest facility. Like other community centers across the city, this one offers programs and activities for seniors and other people of varying abilities and needs. Photo by Dennis Noland</strong></p>

The Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool is Seattle Parks and Recreation’s newest facility. Like other community centers across the city, this one offers programs and activities for seniors and other people of varying abilities and needs. Photo by Dennis Noland

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On Sept. 22, Seattle Parks and Recreation opened a gleaming, new, $25 million Rainier Beach Community Center and Pool. This three-year project replaced an aging building. 

The new multi-purpose building is bright, incorporating natural light, and is accessible to people of all abilities. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, the swimming center is a recreational showpiece featuring a lap pool, a family and children’s water play area designed like a water park and a hot tub.

The opening of this community center is a landmark moment for our city and provides a reason to examine the multitude of ways our city is helping an aging population remain active.

In last month’s column, we explored the benefits of remaining in the workplace and the resulting mental stimulation and opportunities for social interaction. This month, we’ll look at readily accessible opportunities for physical activity that allow elders to remain physically full of life and socially involved.

Angela Smith, recreation specialist with Seattle Parks Lifelong Recreation, manages the programs for Southeast Seattle. Smith shared, “Each of Seattle Parks’ 26 community centers offer a variety of programming for seniors. Our Lifelong Recreation programs focus on people age 50 and better, although, those who are younger will not be turned away. Our goal is to provide recreation, physical activity and social support.”

Physical activity increases muscle strength, improves balance and mobility, and releases endorphins that lower tension and improve attitudes. When we exercise, we sleep better. 

Smith stated, “I am constantly inspired by the amazingly active 70- and 80-year-olds who participate in our Zumba Gold and yoga classes. I am also impressed by the working seniors, ages 50 to 65, who regularly take midday recreation breaks.”  

A variety of activities

Caregivers can accompany seniors and assist the senior’s participation. The pool at Rainier Beach has a mechanical lift that gently lowers people with disabilities into the pool.

During community center classes, instructors focus on flexibility, breathing, balance and range of motion. Lifelong Recreation programming includes senior aerobics, water fitness, circuit training, fitness dance, pickleball, volleyball, tai chi and ZY Qigong. Special-needs programs include exercise and walking programs for people with arthritis, a stationary bike program for people with Parkinson’s, a walking group for those with memory loss and chair-based exercises for those with limited mobility.

Seniors can partake in ballroom and tap dance lessons. Some of the community centers’ lunch programs combine physical activity with social interaction. There are a variety of organized walks. Some explore Seattle’s scenic neighborhoods; others go birding. One walking group is for dog owners and their pets. 

Transportation is provided to more adventuresome locations like Wallace Falls in Gold Bar, Wash., and Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, Wash. 

A wide variety of field trips are offered to places like the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) and the Flying Heritage Collection. 

Seniors with a passion for the visual arts can participate in painting, pottery and photography classes.

A complete list of programs offered by the community centers is published quarterly. The brochure can be viewed online at www.seattle.gov/parks/seniors, or call (206) 684-4951 to be added to the mailing list.

Community centers have parking. Most centers are accessible by public transit. For those seniors who eligible under the ADA Paratransit Program, the Access bus system (metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/accessible/accessvan.html) provides door-to-door service. 

Fees for programs vary. People with limited incomes can qualify for a 50-percent discount. Additional cost reductions are available through “scholarships.” Some programs are free for Group Heath members.

If interested in a leadership role, seniors from the community can volunteer to serve on their community center’s Advisory Council. For the unemployed older than 55, community centers occasionally offer paying jobs for individuals to work as program aids.

Staying active

With all of the opportunities for Seattle’s seniors to remain active, there are few excuses to be sedentary. If you are caring for an aging loved-one, order a brochure, stop by one of the neighborhood community centers to see what is being offered or make an appointment to meet with a recreation specialist from the Seattle Parks Lifelong Recreation program.

Encourage your aging loved-ones to remain active. Or, if they’ve stopped being active, help them reengage.

Just because we are aging doesn’t mean we can’t continue to find joy in living. As a group, our aging population is healthier and living longer. 

Staying active and engaged are elements that keep an aging person healthy and happy.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Beck was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as Washington’s 2012 Small Business Person of the Year. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to marla@andelcare.com.