Editorial: Renovated Senior Resource Center is a glimpse of the retirement capital Lawrence can become
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
In a town that thrives on young college students, it would be easy enough to forget about those residents on the opposite end of the age spectrum: senior citizens. It is a credit to our community that we have not done so.
The latest example that Lawrence cares about our senior citizens can be found downtown at the newly renovated Senior Resource Center. The building at 745 Vermont St. is in the midst of an approximately $7 million renovation to make it more hospitable for both the Senior Resource Center and the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical department, which it shares space with. (Don’t worry, the spaces are separated by a wall. Seniors don’t have to slide down a pole.)
While work on the fire station part of the building isn’t yet completed, the Senior Resource Center has moved back into the space. The new space should allow the center to increase and improve the services it offers to seniors.
The organization seems to have a lot of good common-sense ideas on how it can be a valuable resource. For example, the center can be a valuable source of information on Medicare health plan options. From Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, when seniors can make changes to their Medicare plans, the center typically serves more than 1,000 area residents looking for assistance. That alone is a great service.
But the center also seems to recognize that there are challenges even more daunting than federal paperwork in being a senior citizen. Often it is the people work that seniors need some help with. Whether it be because they have moved to a new community, lost many of their friends to death or health problems or for other reasons we don’t understand, growing older can be a lonely endeavor. It doesn’t need to be that way, and a major part of the Senior Resource Center’s mission is providing a place and programs for the seniors to connect with one another.
The improved space is expected to give the center more opportunities to host Parks and Recreation classes and to start more activities such as a quilting club, a pool players club, health classes by LMH Health, cooking classes by Just Food. An improved computer space and even a better spot to simply gather and watch a little TV with friends also are on tap.
What’s even more encouraging is that other organizations also are adopting a positive approach to seniors and retirees. The Lawrence Public Library last weekend hosted its first ever festival aimed at helping people make the transition into retirement. Such events are a further sign that the community not only recognizes that it has a growing population of retirees and senior citizens but is excited by the fact and is working to get all the benefits it can from such a population.
You shouldn’t need an excuse to stop by the Senior Resource Center and check it out, but if you do, the center is hosting a Services Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday. It is a chance to hear from many nonprofits that offer a variety of services to area seniors.
As that event continues in future years, here’s betting that it becomes even larger. As the Journal-World reported this summer, the latest Census figures show Douglas County’s population of people 65 and older has grown by 51.5% from 2010 to 2018. That is a higher growth percentage that Johnson County, Riley County, Shawnee County and many other college-oriented communities in other states. Indeed, the numbers suggest that Douglas County really is excelling at attracting retirees. In some ways, we are doing a better job of attracting that age group than we are in attracting young college students. The same Census numbers show that 2018 was the second consecutive year that the county saw a decline in the 18- to 24-year-old population.
It is important that Lawrence remains the college capital of Kansas, but it is exciting to think how the community also could be become the retirement capital of the state or even the broader Great Plains region. The dichotomy may present some challenges, but it also may produce something really wonderful.