Calling themselves taxpaying second-class citizens, more than 40 Gilbert seniors stormed a Town Council meeting late Tuesday with one request: A center of their own.
Patrons of Gilbert’s only senior center say they’re concerned that as the town plans a new community center at the site of the current one near Gilbert and Elliot roads, they must continue sharing the facilities with town preschool programs.
“There have been incidents where children running in the existing facility have bumped into people with walkers and canes,” senior Harry Smiley said.
Smiley added that with the town paying $38.3 million to build a Big League Dreams sports venue, it shouldn’t be hard-pressed to focus the $3.2 million proposed for a community center on the town’s growing senior population.
“I love children,” senior Jim Morasca said. “But as seniors we need something to ourselves.”
Town planners have said the plans for a 16,500-squarefoot facility would better separate the age groups than the current 9,000-square-foot facility. Mayor Steve Berman promised the group the Town Council would address their concern.
Donna Butts, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Generations United, said nationwide the concept of intergenerational community centers is growing.
“There have been studies that show older adults who are around children are more engaged, more optimistic,” she said. “And children don’t have the same fear of aging or stereotypes that older people are feeble, and ill, or not engaged.”