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Thursday

April 2014

24

Oconomowoc Area Senior Center celebrates 25 years

Center approaches 500th member

City of Oconomowoc - It's only fitting that the Oconomowoc Area Senior Center (OASC) should be showing some signs of silver, as the organization readies to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

Executive Director Mary Sheridan said in a recent interview they are anticipating the center's 500th member.

"We're at 498 members and hoping to get two more by the end of the day. We're getting real excited about it," she said last week. The Center was formally incorporated in 1988 and will be recognizing this milestone by various activities throughout the entire year.

"We're getting a committee together to plan for our silver anniversary," Sheridan said.

The history of the Senior Center began in February 1986 when then-Mayor Florence Whalen appointed an "Older Adults Priorities Committee" to study programming needs and priorities for senior citizens in the Oconomowoc area.

According to the OASC newsletter, at the time the federal government was discussing programming cuts that directly, or indirectly, affected senior citizens.

It was expected that local municipalities would need to compensate for some of the cuts.

"It was an era of austerity," Whalen said.

A committee was established to assess and prioritize the needs of seniors.

The committee's unanimous choice for the number-one priority was a senior center.

Tim Thiele, executive director of Lutheran Homes of Oconomowoc, visited with Whalen and explained what they were doing at Shorehaven with a construction project.

"We worked out a deal and for a number of years, the senior center was out there," before moving in the former St. Jerome School site it currently occupies.

Whalen said it came out of a desire for seniors wanting a place to play cards "where they did not have to leave when the ballet kids came in," she said in reference to the old rec center.

"But it grew into an understanding of multiple needs of senior citizens and offers all sorts of programs.

"I never expected there would be that many members or how much it would mean to so many people," Whalen said.

"I've been impressed with how it's grown into a multipurpose place for seniors to learn and meet each other," she added.

Sheridan said the center offers more than two dozen programs for people ages 50 and up.

"In January we are adding four more (new programs). It's getting to be a real challenge to schedule them all," she said.

Sheridan said younger seniors should give the center a chance.

"People have to get over the stigma of it being for 'old people'. What makes people old is sitting at home and hibernating," she said.

She countered that participation at the senior center provides opportunity to meets your physical, social and mental needs through their programming.

"We don't sit around and we're not old people," Sheridan emphasized.

Whalen agreed.

"It's really an important element in the city," she said.

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