MARS — Sandy Tindall taught the elderly how to create greeting and birthday cards on a computer.
Now, the Mars Senior Center has computers and people who know about technology, she said, which is one change in the past 20 years.
“It was the beginning of what it is today,” said Tindall, who was the center manager from 2001 to 2009. “People drive, work and are technology savvy. Times were different.”
The center marks its 25th anniversary this year with a celebration planned for Oct. 18 at the center, 2 Gilkey Drive.
Speakers at the celebration will include some of the oldest members of the senior center.
“It really nice, everyone's thrilled,” said Kim Hicks, center manager. “I'm hoping it makes it makes 25 more.”
Activities at the center range from exercise, crafts and bingo to Bible study and different church services and educational speakers.
Lunch is served daily to an average of 38 people who come to the center to enjoy a cup of coffee, card games, singing, line dancing and yoga.
This year, the senior center was recognized with the Senior Center of the Year Award by the Pennsylvania Association of Senior Centers.
In the center's early days, food was cooked and served at the center in contrast to the group that provides the meals now, Hicks said.
Volunteers used to take classes to work in the kitchen, she said.
Before Tindall was manager, she said three other managers served before her, and the center was open three days a week.
Her eight-year span as manager was motivated by the people she met, Tindall said.
“You get hooked on it,” she said. “I just loved the people.”
In 2001, the center started its exercise program, known at the time as Silver Sneakers, she said.
“We had to move the tables every day to do exercise and for line dancing on Friday, too,” she said.
One of the biggest changes happened in 2015 when the center's patio was enclosed to create an exercise room and dance floor, Tindall said.
This brought more people to the center for its programs, which still run today, she said.
Elderly who attend the center are different compared to past generations, Tindall said.
As manager, a senior center has to meet the changing needs of the community, Tindall said.
“One thing a manager tries to do is keep it light and lively,” she said. “There's always music playing, friends are sitting at tables in their groups.”
By 2020, the population of older Pennsylvanians is projected to increase by 25 percent, and the population of Pennsylvanians aged 80 and over is projected to increase by 20,000 individuals, according to the state's Department of Aging.
As the population shifts, the presence of senior centers will be more important than ever to provide the elderly with meals and socialization, Hicks said.
The center now serves an older demographic that depend more on its services, Hicks said.
“A lot look forward to coming and being around everybody,” she said. “It's more important than what it used to be because it's part of their daily routine now.”
As Hicks looked to the future, she said she hopes the center continues to grow.
“More and more people are interested,” she said. “It's wonderful for seniors, and I'm glad they have it and rely on it to further enrich their lives.”
Senior centers keep the elderly informed and offer them nutrition, Tindall said, who attends the center.