The Eden Prairie Senior Center has completed a remodeling project just as “highly active senior citizens are coming out of the woodwork,” says Sue Bohnsack, supervisor of the city-run facility at 8950 Eden Prairie Road.
In the upper-floor construction project, contractors tore down office walls to create what Bohnsack describes as a more open and welcoming social space for older adults who might spontaneously gather in groups of two, three or four. There are plush chairs, a fireplace and a television to make things cozy, and coffee and other refreshments are just across the room.
It was created with a new kind of Senior Center user in mind: Someone who might want to gather with just a couple of friends rather than join a larger, organized class or group that meets regularly to play bridge or discuss current events.
Not that those larger, programmed activities are disappearing. In fact, Bohnsack says, visits to the Senior Center are doubling with each new month, so that the total number of 2022 visits is likely to surpass the pre-COVID-19 benchmark of 32,000 visits a year. That’s happening as COVID-19 lightens its grip and older adults become more comfortable gathering in groups for ever-more-vigorous activities, like a city-sponsored trip to nearby iFly, an indoor simulation of skydiving.
By contrast, the new fireside lounge offers space for unscheduled and more intimate gatherings, like a pair of older adults who want to meet before or after an organized Senior Center event, or before a game on the outdoor pickleball courts.
The open space exists immediately inside the front entrance to the center, which has a long history going back to the 1970s, when it served as city hall and later the school district’s Family Center. Where hard walls, interior windows, and a narrow hallway once existed is the large, open space with the new seating, fireplace, and mini-kitchen.
This is the center’s first remodeling since a couple of water leaks occurred in recent years. The latest project was mostly funded with $25,000 from an anonymous donor and $45,700 from the estate of the late Jeffrey Kirst, an Eden Prairie resident who left a bequest to the city Parks and Recreation Department via the Eden Prairie Community Foundation, which he also supported.
The Senior Center is generally open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It can also be rented at other times. More information about the Senior Center is on the city’s website.
Mark Weber is the executive director of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation, referenced in this article.