University City

Concord senior center gets new look, more space

John Burris sat in a chair outside Cabarrus County Senior Center’s new exercise studio, grinning as he laced up the strings on his shin-high work boots.

“I just danced on it for the first time. In my bare feet,” the burly 66-year-old power line worker said of the new studio’s hardwood floors, which also has a mirrored wall extending the length of the room. “It’s awesome.”

Burris was one of dozens who stopped by May 2 for the senior center’s open house. The event showcased $370,000 worth of renovations made to the center by the county.

Besides the new exercise studio, there is a new fitness room with workout equipment, an office space and a multipurpose room that houses 12 laptop computers for public use.

The total amount of the new space is an extra 1,141 square feet for the center.

To many, the kinds of improvements included in the expansion help project an updated view of senior adults. Healthier and more vibrant than past generations, seniors today seek more physical and social activities.

A 2009 survey from the Pew Research Center showed that the typical baby boomer defines old age as 72, and most feel, on average, nine years younger than their actual age.

Burris, for one, says the idea of being labeled a senior adult or old enough to use a senior center initially turned him off.

“If it wasn’t for my wife, I wouldn’t have come here, because in my mind seniors are people with walkers or wheelchairs,” he said. “My wife came down and saw it was more than that. It’s exercise rooms and dances. It’s all sorts of games and competitions.”

That senior centers are for the sedentary is one of the myths Makenzie Mullinax, coordinator of the county’s senior centers in Concord and Mount Pleasant, hopes to dispel.

“When I speak to church groups, I’ll often hear, ‘Oh my God. I’m 60. I’m not old enough to go to the senior center,’ ” said Mullinax. “But they’re open and fun. People are always coming and going.”

Open to anyone age 50 or older, the Cabarrus Senior Center in Concord also has billiard tables and dart boards, bocce and shuffleboard courts, weekly dances and jam sessions, talent shows, Olympic-style games for seniors, lunch and learn sessions, and wellness classes.

There’s no membership fee to join, and many programs are free or cost a nominal amount.

“To me, this senior center is sort of a hidden gem – a resource that folks don’t know about,” said Ted Drain, 74, a former educator who finished his career as the interim superintendent of Durham County Schools. “I had no plans, really.

“I was just doing nothing. (The center) just turned my life around. I had a real purpose again.”

Like Drain, Burris said the activities at the senior center allow him to exercise his mind and body and helps to keep him young at heart.

“I guess I’m a senior citizen now,” said Burris. “But we don’t consider ourselves seniors.

“We’re just young adults in our ultimate years of life. We’re having a blast.”