PLEASANT HILL -- The Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District's new senior center was designed with today's active aging population in mind.
Dance classes, strength training, day trips and Zumba -- the Salsa-infused fitness craze -- have replaced bingo.
"I think there's a mind-set that the senior center is filled with wheelchair geriatrics, and that's just not so," said Ron Quinn, the 62-year-old vice president of the Pleasant Hill Senior Club board of directors. "Most of our 80-year-olds run circles around me."
Natural light streams through dozens of windows overlooking Pleasant Hill Park, filling the senior center's rooms and soaring entry hall. The 22,587-square-foot building includes a cozy library/lounge with a gas fireplace, two classrooms, a full-service kitchen, a computer lab with 20 work stations, a dining room and a dance studio with a springy wood floor to help protect aging knees.
"Every time I go in there, I get goose bumps because it's beyond expectations," said Bob Berggren, recreation district general manager.
During the open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at 233 Gregory Lane, the district will offer music, refreshments and fitness class demonstrations. Senior center membership is open to anyone age 50 and older for an annual $12 fee. Members don't have to be Pleasant Hill residents.
In 1955, 13 charter members founded the senior club, which had grown out of a weekly card game. The original senior center was spread across three repurposed buildings, including a three-bedroom house and the former chapel from U.S. Army Base Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg.
Over the years, membership swelled to more than 2,000 and the senior center outgrew its 7,000 square feet of space. Staff couldn't add a new program without dropping something else first, said Kendra Luke, senior center supervisor.
The buildings also were deteriorating. Longtime recreation district board member Sherry Sterrett recalled that the floor in one building was so sloped, chairs placed at one end of the room would slide to the other.
In 2007, Tom McDonald, who owns three assisted-living communities in Pleasant Hill, agreed to pay an architect to draw up plans for a new senior center.
Luke wanted a modern, functional, welcoming space where seniors could participate in a wide variety of activities or simply grab a cup of coffee and catch up with friends. Although the average age of members tends to skew over 70, Luke expects more baby boomers will soon join. She acknowledges that the center must cater to such a broad demographic -- so seniors will find quilting and computer classes, tai chi and modern dance.
"We need to be able to program for all of those interests, and we can finally do that in this building," she said.
Funds for the project came from the $28 million bond voters passed in 2009. The $9.5 million senior center building is the second of the three bond projects to be completed. The teen center opened in October, and the community center is slated for completion later this year.
Quinn, who has been a senior center member since he retired about three years ago, believes younger seniors will be drawn to the activities and the strong sense of community.
"They'll see what we're about, they'll see us in action and want to join."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
What: Grand opening of Pleasant Hill senior center
When: 1-4 p.m., Saturday
Where: 233 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill