On a recent snowy and slippery morning, a parking spot was hard to find at the Carson City Senior Center.
Tucked away between Long Street and Beverly Drive behind Roop Street, the senior center is a busy place.
And little deters hundreds of Carson City’s older citizens from visiting it every weekday.
“I come here every chance I get,” said Marceline Warren, who was enjoying a ravioli lunch with her husband, James, and friends Paul and Dolores Miller. “Today’s lunch was delicious.”
Lunch may be the center’s biggest draw, attracting an average 170 people daily, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
But the center offers much more than that, from assistance with Medicare enrollment and annual tax help from a team of AARP volunteers to dozens of classes, social activities and hobbyist clubs.
James Warren, for example, said he plays pool and Ping Pong at the center.
Each has their own dedicated room — the Sierra Room for billiards and table tennis in the Joshua Tree Room — and players of both sometimes compete in the Reno Tahoe Senior Games.
“I love to play Bingo,” said Dolores Miller. “Any senior who wants something to do ought to come here.”
For the last dozen years, Miller has sold hundreds of her hand-knitted afghans and scarves in the center’s Unique Crafters Gift Shop, which pays a commission to the artisans and gives whatever is left over from operations to the Meals on Wheels program.
“It’s a way for seniors to put an activity into cash,” said Courtney Warner, the center’s executive director since July 2015.
Warner says the center’s focus is wellness, achieved by working on four facets of well-being — social, physical, emotional and spiritual.
The social aspect is easy to see. Most activity at the center involves lots of interaction, from the busy cafeteria to the library where people work together on jigsaw puzzles to the Comstock Room where card tables fill up fast for informal games of Mah Jongg.
The center also offers the occasional pre-planned social outings, such as trips to Lake Tahoe for the Shakespeare Festival or to Reno to visit the May Arboretum or run errands.
Hobbyists get together, too. There are knitting groups and watercolor classes and the lapidary room occupied by a core group of ardent users.
“I’m a rock hound. Once you get it, it’s an ugly fever,” said Peggy Armer, the volunteer who oversees the lapidary room where people pay a $2 fee to learn how to cut and polish stones and gems.
There’s plenty of physical activity, too, which in many case dovetails with the social.
The nearly two-hour line dancing class on Monday in the Nevada Room is full.
“You don’t need a partner,” said Warner. “Everything can be modified to people’s ability.”
There’s The Merry Go Rounds and Capitol Cut Ups, two square dancing clubs, and Warner brought back senior dances one Friday evening a month with live music by Don & Nadine or the Motifs.
Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays is always packed.
“People start showing up at 9 a.m. for the 10 a.m. class,” said Warner.
Yoga overlaps with the spiritual or emotional, two aspects Warner said the center needs to expand on either on its own or through partnerships.
Right now, the center offers Tears and Rainbows, a grief support group, Alzheimer support and Al-Anon.
Staff spends 145 hours on case management each month.
“We can solve problems if we know what the challenges are,” said Warner.
Meals on Wheels serves 230 meals to homebound seniors five days a week and the center is working on grants to provide home repair and pet care assistance after surveying clients about their needs.
The center just finished a survey designed for all residents posted at the Carson City web site in an effort to see what activities people would like to see made available.
One challenge, of course, is money. The cost of serving lunch, for example, is paid for by a voluntary $2.25 from each senior and $2.20 in reimbursement via the Older Americans Act, which has remained stagnant.
“The price of milk alone has gone up more than that,” said Warner.
There’s a bill draft before the 2017 Nevada Legislature to increase the reimbursements.
The city recently moved Michael Salogga, the former business resource manager, to the center to take over as business manager to help get the facility on sustainable footing as it continues to grow.
The center operates with a small staff and a slew of volunteers, most of whom are clients, too.
“I’ve been a volunteer since 1998,” said Margaret Brewster, 85, who was busing tables after a recent midday meal. “I make coffee and clean up after lunch. I jump in to help out.”
Another challenge is communications.
Warner walks the halls to talk with people and she has a nine-person advisory board made up of senior center members.
“They’re the first to know before anyone else,” about anything going on at the center, said Warner. “We want to make sure we have a clear message especially on hot button issues like lunch because change is really hard with this group.”
Warner, who joined the senior center from an independent living facility in Seattle, also works to get the word out outside the senior center.
“Coming into Carson City from the outside it feels like the senior center is kind of lost in the bigger community,” said Warner. “We just want to make sure people know about us.”