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Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Innovative new programs for seniors

Edmonds Senior Center is adding even more ways for its members stay healthy

  • Madelaine Mills (center) participates in ukulele class at the Edmonds Senior Center. The class is one of many offerings for seniors at the center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Madelaine Mills (center) participates in ukulele class at the Edmonds Senior Center. The class is one of many offerings for seniors at the center.

  • Madelaine Mills and Colin Pichbeck participate in the Ukulele class offered at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Madelaine Mills and Colin Pichbeck participate in the Ukulele class offered at the Edmonds Senior Center.

  • Colin Pichbeck plays during a ukulele class at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Colin Pichbeck plays during a ukulele class at the Edmonds Senior Center.

Janice DeShon likes to boast that the Edmonds Senior Center has one of the best views of any senior center in the world.
There is a senior center in Switzerland on the water, but that's the closest comparison, DeShon said.
"Our view never stops," said DeShon the center's program development director.
A few steps from the sand, the splashing waves of Puget Sound and scenes of mountaintops, ferries and whales, Edmonds Senior Center lies in a nautical wonderland.
But here's the deal, the Edmonds Senior Center is more than just a pretty face.
It is the site of two new unique programs that kick wellness for seniors to a higher level. And the center will soon stretch its reach to take in the homeless.
Basically, the Edmonds Senior Center is a model for how far such facilities can go to serve their communities.
"For some, this is not their second home but their first home," said executive director Farrell Fleming. "And it serves a very potent function for them."
That function goes way beyond fun and games, Fleming said, the proof being in the new programming the center has launched.
EnhanceWellness is a new program scheduled to begin this month to help give members a way to formalize their personal wellness plans. The program is being paid for through an $86,000 grant from the South Snohomish Commission for Health and, when it's up and running, will provide a part-time nurse and a social worker to monitor seniors over a six-month period, taking measurements and such, to check their wellness progress, Fleming said.
Also starting in January, Bastyr University is setting up a natural medicine clinic, the first one of its kind in Snohomish County (there's a similar clinic at the Shoreline Senior Center) that will be open to all ages.
Though naturopathic and alternative medical treatments are quite mainstream these days, Medicare doesn't cover naturopathy, Fleming said. So the advantage of this clinic is that instead of costing about $800, a visit to the naturopath will now cost you about $15 for a full workup, Fleming said.
Also, a vote is pending by the board of the Edmonds Senior Center to create an emergency shelter in the center's dining room to house the homeless during severe winter weather conditions.
The center already serves meals to those who can't afford the $2.50 suggested donation for lunch. So now the center is expanding its services to those who have lost their homes due to the tanked economy.
"We are now seeing groups of baby boomers who are out of work, not by choice, and their prospects are not good," Fleming said. "And this group is kind of in shock, and at the least we can get them fed."
On the up side, Fleming said the center is seeing a growing population of older members who are "very healthy and robust" into their 90s.
Quite frankly, these people don't look their age, Fleming said.
"They are changing our whole image of really what old age is about," he said.
For those active seniors, Edmonds Senior Center has lots to offer. In fact, the center is known for its variety of events, including driftwood sculpture, ukulele classes, yoga, dance and Tai Chi. A drama group has started and there's live music in the ballroom every Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.
The center, founded in 1968, currently has 1,400 paying members, and yearly usage recently clocked in at 6,500 people, DeShon said.
"Every room is filled every day of the week, and it's a wonderful problem to have," DeShon said.
During a recent tour, DeShon pointed out that one of executive director Fleming's goals for the center was to create a sort of "Disneyland for seniors." Certainly, that goal has been reached with the center's classes and activities, trips and game events filling seven pages of the senior center newsletter.
Also, the Edmonds Senior Center has a bustling thrift store that's open six days a week. The store, which can take in $500 a day, goes a long way toward helping to provide revenue. As a nonprofit, Edmonds Senior Center must raise 75 percent of its revenue, or $370,000 a year.
Past the thrift store just a few feet away is the water, waves and, occasionally, whales. If they wanted to and the weather was right, senior center members, staff and volunteers could walk outside, take their shoes off and put their toes in the sand.
While standing out on the center's deck, DeShon sighed and said, "We have one of the best views in the world."

Edmonds Senior Center
Edmonds Senior Center (formerly South County Senior Center), 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds. Membership rates for 2012 are $25 for singles and $40 for couples. The Edmonds Senior Center, also known as the South County Senior Center, is a nonprofit operating out of a 28,000 square foot building serving a hot lunch five days a week along with offering many activities, trips and classes, pool tables and a thrift shop. For more information call 425-774-5555 or go to

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