Stillaguamish Senior Center finds success adding programs such as kayaking, hiking and Wii

  • By Theresa Goffredo, Herald Writer
  • Thursday, February 23, 2012 9:54am
  • LifeSmokey Point

Acting not your age is simple to do at the Stillaguamish Senior Center.

For starters, the center offers a free ice cream social every second Thursday of the month. Or guests can go kayaking, hiking or whisking off to Waikiki.

There’s also Wii and Kinect games, massage and acupuncture.

More and more, senior centers everywhere are expanding their program offerings to cater to the younger senior crowd in their 50s and early 60s.

The formula of adding new programs while also keeping the basics is certainly working at the Stilly Senior Center, where the membership population has ballooned.

Executive director Jo Olson said she has seen a jump in use at the center, where today more than 4,000 people a year use the facility.

“Our center is really jumping. It’s really going crazy,” Olson said. “We’ve increased by at least a couple thousand since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here 11 years. And for some of the younger seniors I’ve seen this year, they are coming because of the Wii.”

They might also be coming for some of the other popular offerings.

Every Friday at lunch, 52 weeks of the year, the senior center brings in entertainment, from bluegrass to classic songs from the 1950s and ’60s. The lunch is so popular on Fridays that the head count sometimes tops 140; any other lunch day might draw 60 people, Olson said.

There’s also the popular “old-fashioned chicken dinner” — better than mama used to make, with baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw and rolls for $7. The next dinner will be served starting at noon March 25.

The Stillaguamish Senior Center also offers day trips to Westlake Center and other destinations, as well as extended trips, like the excursion to Waikiki in September.

There’s the classic bingo, pinochle and bridge, pool and movies.

The center also offers many classes on a variety of topics, including a brand new class called gentle yoga done on chairs. The class already has 13 people attending.

“That class just hit it off,” Olson said.

The Stillaguamish Senior Center, like most others, is a nonprofit corporation. It was organized by North Snohomish County citizens in 1970 and today has 230 volunteers.

But the center is unusual in that it is known for being one of the first to offer low-income housing, Olson said.

Through the years, the senior center has built 154 units of low-income senior housing on its campus. Financing for these buildings comes from federal, state and county agencies with mortgages paid by rents and rent subsidies, according to the senior center website.

The housing provides independent living for seniors. The occupants range in age from 62 to the late 80s or 90s.

“It’s wonderful to provide this service for the seniors,” Olson said.

Though the Stilly Senior Center has changed its program offerings to include more modern selections, Olson said the center still caters to all ages.

“All senior centers work hard to make it a good place for seniors,” Olson said. “After all, it makes a big difference in their lives.”

Caregiving workshop

A spring workshop on caregiving is set for 1 to 3 p.m. April 23 in the Don Regan Conference/Board Room of the Stillaguamish Senior Center, 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington.

This is a free workshop but registration is required. To register, call Debbie Cook at 360-653-4551, ext 236, or email

Topics to be covered include offering strategies for managing stress and avoiding burnout even in the most difficult caregiving situations. Also, “Humor in the Caregiving Journey” will involve the audience in seeing the positive in stressful situations. Participants will have the opportunity to share humorous incidents and will learn to reframe the negative into positive.

For general information about the Stilly Senior Center, call 360-653-4551 or go to

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