by Molly Simon
Editor’s Note: There are over 100 organizations in Whatcom County working to provide supportive ser- vices to those experiencing chronic poverty and its associated effects: ad- diction, homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, and unemployment. Whatcom Watch believes these orga- nizations often labor unnoticed by citizens — this column is designed to add daylight to their endeavors. We have contacted the organiza- tion appearing in this column and asked them to explain their mission. Because, in challenging times, being inspired and perhaps empowered by the acts of others is more important than ever.
You walk in the door and hear upbeat music coming from the back while a smiling volunteer greets you and welcomes you back as you scan your membership card. You smell freshly brewed coffee and today’s lunch being cooked, and then wave to a friend who’s waiting for you to join them to … dance, play cards, walk a trail, shoot pool, join them for a game of cribbage, lift weights, get help with your new cell phone … Welcome to the Bellingham Senior Activity Center!
The Bellingham Senior Activity Center has been welcoming local older adults through our doors since 1961 and providing varied programs, activities, and ongoing educational opportunities to enrich the lives of our members as they age. As a new generation of older adults looks to redefine retirement, there is a growing focus on wellness, work, and volunteerism. When it comes to finding tools for staying healthy and involved, or information about benefits, senior centers are the place to start.
This September, in celebration of National Senior Center Month, we invite you to learn more about our programs and services at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center. This year’s National Senior Center Month theme, “Building Momentum,” was chosen to highlight how senior centers use innovative programs to change the perception of aging and create important community resources for aging expertise.
When folks think of senior centers, they often think of bingo and card games, and, while you will find both these activities at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center, you will find so much more! Our members are active folks who enjoy moving their bodies and staying fit. We offer three hiking groups, a twice-weekly walk around local trails, a great strength training gym, qigong and yoga.
If music and dance are more your speed, we have a regular Tuesday afternoon ballroom dance with live music, Zumba Gold (a dance-based exercise class), English Country Dancing and the beloved Senior Steppers, an amazing group of tap dancers. The Senior Steppers are inviting all interested dancers to join them Mondays at 1:30 p.m. to give tap dancing a try; shoes are even provided!
Other popular programs at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center include arts and crafts groups. Come down to the center and work on your projects with others. Our members quilt, knit, hook rugs, and there are woodcarvers too! Painting and portrait drawing groups also meet each week.
Perhaps you’d enjoy a discussion or writing group? Regularly, we have Ted Talks to watch and discuss; there is a personal writing group that shares their stories and work, and we have a Spanish conversation group meeting both virtually and in person.
Whatcom Council on Aging
The Bellingham Senior Activity Center is a program of the Whatcom Council on Aging, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide nutritional, social, recreational, and educational programs that promote wellness of mind and body for community members as they age. Other programs of the Whatcom Council on Aging include Meals on Wheels and More, Bellingham at Home, and The Men’s Shed.
Meals on Wheels and More supports the health and independence of the older adult populations of Whatcom and San Juan counties by providing nutritious food, social connection, and nutrition education.
Through our Meals on Wheels and Senior Community Meals’ programs, we provide 2,500-plus seniors throughout Whatcom and San Juan counties with more than 200,000 nutritious meals each year! It is our goal to ensure that all Whatcom and San Juan seniors have access to the nutrition they need to remain healthy and independent in their homes as long as possible.
Bellingham At Home, another program of the Whatcom Council on Aging, represents a new concept in community building and aging in place. Bellingham At Home members and volunteers provide programs and services to champion independence and foster community as we age, to live with the highest quality of life, “on our own terms, in our homes.” Volunteers and members help to build this new community by serving others and connecting with each other through participating in activities, classes, and social gatherings. Aging independently doesn’t mean going it alone.
The Men’s Shed is the newest program under the Whatcom Council on Aging umbrella. Men’s Sheds are cropping up around the world and have a goal to provide a space in the community where senior men can find meaning, friendship and belonging. If this sounds interesting to you, The Men’s Shed is meeting each Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the gazebo in Barkley Village for a walk and then coffee. Please join them for camaraderie and conversation! They also regularly meet to work on building projects for the community, such as benches for the Bellingham Farmers Market and a small stage for Makerspace.
Of course, the only way we can do the work we do is because of our community. Volunteers truly make a huge difference at the Whatcom Council on Aging. Our volunteers deliver meals to homebound seniors, lead groups and activities in the Senior Activity Center, answer the phone, staff our coffee bar and so much more. Nearly 100 folks volunteer with us each month and we can always use more help!
To learn more about the programs of the Whatcom Council on Aging, to volunteer, donate or join in our programs, give us a call at (360) 733-4030 or visit our website at www.WhatcomCOA.org.
Molly Simon is the director of the Bellingham Senior Activity Center and a lifelong Bellingham resident. She graduated from Western Washington University with a B.A. in Human Services. During her time at WWU, she was an intern at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center.