Consultants Deliver Senior Center Report

At its Oct. 18, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor park advisory commission (PAC) received a final report from consultants regarding the Ann Arbor senior center. [.pdf of full report] At its June 24, 2011 meeting, PAC had received a staff update on the senior center, which is located at Burns Park.

The report stems from city budget talks in 2009, when city officials were looking to cut costs and said that closing the senior center would save about $150,000 annually from the city’s general fund. In response to protests from local residents, the city formed a task force to develop strategies to keep the center open.

In November 2010, the city council approved a $34,750 contract for the consulting firm Hooker DeJong to develop a long-term strategic plan for the senior center. The Ann Arbor Community Foundation funded $16,949 of that amount, with the remainder coming from the city’s general fund.

Hooker DeJong’s 60-page report makes 16 recommendations regarding the senior center. They include: (1) expanding senior programming to other locations, including North Community Center and Bryant Community Center; (2) exploring partnerships with senior centers outside Ann Arbor, such as Pittsfield Township’s senior center, which offers a popular travel program; (3) using more volunteers to expand programs and activities; (4) reaching out to affordable housing developments to do programming; (5) marketing to seniors over 70; (6) possibly eliminating the word “senior” from marketing materials; and (7) making future development program-based rather than facility-based.

The report also recommends that the current senior center at Burns Park be used for non-senior programming as well, and that the center be renamed to reflect that broader use – possibly as the Burns Park Community Center.

Colin Smith, manager of city parks & recreation, said the staff would be reviewing the report and returning to PAC in the coming weeks with a plan on implementing some of these recommendations.

This brief was filed from council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron St. A more detailed report will follow.