Ash Grove was completely dedicated to senior classes, senior programs and senior drop-in activities. At Cook, over-fifties will share space with under-fifties of all ages. The idea doesn't please many of the Ash Grove regulars. "We already raised our kids," says one. "In my case, eight kids."
"I know they want their own turf, but we spent several months dialoguing with the community about this," says Rash. A survey taken in the neighborhood three years ago showed broad support for a "multi-age" facility at Cook, she adds. "We wanted to be sure we were plugging into their needs. We're offering an enhanced package of resources."
The city now has only three recreation centers reserved for seniors--Platt Park, Highland and Newton--and all three are aging buildings with no room for expansion, says Rash. As the baby boom goes gray, the trend is to offer "mainstream" recreation programs that serve all ages, "including those over age fifty who don't want to be called seniors," she adds. "And that's a lot."
The Cook center still doesn't have a firm opening date--the reception desk say the first of they year--although the staff lets visitors stop in and nose around. By mid-January, with any luck, Cook will host dozens of classes for the fifty-plus crowd, ranging from quilting and watercolor painting to tap dancing, weightlifting, yoga, bridge, cooking, estate planning and literary discussion. Most require a modest fee, but seniors can still drop in the center for casual pool- and card-playing at no charge, says Rash.
Three weeks after Ash Grove's closing in early September, more than a hundred seniors turned out for an official farewell party. Even though they expected to see one another at their new community hangout within just a few weeks, the event was tinged with nostalgia. "People hated to leave there," says Pat Murray, whose two oldest children attended Ash Grove when it was a public school. "For a lot of people, especially people who don't drive, it was a second home.