Where 80 is the New 60

TRAVERSE CITY – Anyone over 50 and active has never had more choices when it comes to recreating and socializing Up North.

In its main Traverse City location two blocks east of downtown, the Traverse City Senior Center offers more than 100 programs covering health, fitness and wellness; social and entertainment activities; sports; volunteerism; educational classes (including how to use Facebook); travel opportunities; resources for senior services; and access to governmental and community programs.

The Senior Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., with guests of all ages welcome.

Indeed, age means little anymore. Eighty year olds are doing what those in their 60s or 70s would have done 10 years ago, said Lori Wells, director of the Senior Center.

"Our 80 year olds are playing tennis, going kayaking or participating in our cycling group," Wells said. "So, offering a cycling group for our 'young' seniors was very short-sighted, because our 80-year-olds are also participating."

While the center attracts a hugely active crowd, they also offer a range of programs for individuals with limited mobility, such as painting, bridge, current events discussion groups, and even an annual spelling bee.

Originally formed in 1964 by Lou Sherry and Vince Ecarius, the 50 and Older Adult Activities Club met in the basement of the Grand Traverse Medical Care facility (currently the Grand Traverse Pavilions). In 1968, the group took over the shelter house from the bayside shuffleboard association and, after renovations, opened its current location on June 1, 1969.

"Lou Sherry was a local radio personality in the 1960s and she saw a need for a place for seniors to gather," Wells said. "So, she used her position on the radio station to generate community interest and got the community behind her to get a group formed."

When Sherry retired as the volunteer director, the city stepped in and hired the first paid director, Joyce Stortz. She was there for ten years before Wells was hired in 1990.

"I have watched our senior center go from having a dozen programs to well over 100 programs," Wells said. "When we approached the county to take on the senior center program, we proposed the Senior Center Network should become a county-wide service, thereby providing services to the outlying areas of the county as well."

In addition to the Traverse City location, the Senior Center Network has branches in Kingsley and Interlochen.

But for those seeking entertainment that is out of the ordinary, Traverse City offers the widest variety of activities, one of the most popular of which is Pickleball, a form of tennis played with paddles and modified whiffle balls.

"Bob and Ginny Postma, a young couple in their 70s, came in to see if we offered Pickleball," Wells said. "Now they now manage one of the largest programs we have here."

The Senior Center offers new retirees a fun and rewarding life following a long career.

"I think our younger base is going to continue to grow because they are going to continue to see the value of types of programs we have to offer," Wells said. "With the economy as tough as it is, we're an affordable option for people to be entertained, recreate, stay healthy and stay fit."

For more information call (231) 922-4911 or visit tcseniorcenter.com.