The town’s Human Services Department has been advocating for a renovation of the Senior Center for years, and this year it seems that the project is finally coming to fruition, thanks in part to two state grants that allow the town to move forward with the plans. “The seniors deserve a clean, appropriate center for their use,” said Human Services Commission Chairman Susan Davidson, when she and Human Services Director Jeanette Glicksman were giving this reporter a tour of the stripped premises.
The senior center is located in the basement of the Center Building, which was designed as the town’s original elementary school. But seniors have not been able to use at least parts of the facility off and on for years – first for construction of an accessible bathroom on the lower level of the building; then for construction of a ramp; then the pandemic closed its doors; followed by flooding last summer, when heavy rain found its way under the bottom of the new outside door.
And now the groups are again dispersed – using a variety of spaces either upstairs in the Center Building, in the library meeting room or en plein air – to be together, to paint; play cards; knit or exercise; take virtual trips and virtual classes. Demolition has started on the cafeteria, the kitchen, the lounge, to get ready for the new, bright, updated premises.
Curt Bristol is part of the craft group that meets twice a week in the library’s Woodbridge Room. The retired construction engineer loves to knit, and enjoys the company of the other crafters who help him along. “Some of them are very accomplished,” he said, with admiration. He is looking forward to meeting out-of-doors, as they did last summer. The old oak trees provide enough shade to make it comfortable.
When the pandemic closed the municipal buildings to the public, they started to realize how important the Senior Center is for seniors and to allow them to age in place, said Nancy Davidson. “But we managed to keep them fed, keep them warm, entertained and vaccinated,” added Jeanette Glicksman. If anything, it has made the connection to many of the seniors even closer.
The pandemic has caused them to tweak the old plans, which were drawn up in 2017 by architects at Silver Petrucelli, but the pandemic has added new perspectives to some parts of it. “We are responding to a changing landscape,” Glicksman said.
Indoor air quality, for instance, has been getting a lot more attention than in the past. The town has therefore approved spending $275,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to install a dedicated HVAC system for the Senior Center, which will be installed before the rest of the renovation takes place. A reception desk, already planned for in the original plans, will be helpful for contact tracing. It will have a glass barrier.
The consultation room – formerly a small office space – which is designed for nurses’ consults or social worker appointments, can also be used for telehealth appointments, or any other meeting that would benefit from some privacy.
The project includes a lot of storage space, with closets for exercise equipment and more, cabinetry in the kitchen and lounge; new light fixtures throughout; new flooring throughout; a bar-level counter with wifi capability; a wall dedicated to art exhibits. “Everything has to be easy to clean and easy to maintain, yet have an inviting quality,” Glicksman said.
She is hoping that there will be some money left for a room divider in the lounge, so different groups can share the room without interfering with each other. Another lesson of the pandemic is the joy of spending time outdoors. Glicksman is hoping that sometime in the future they will be able to clean up the green strip in the courtyard, and set up some outdoor furniture. But those are plans for another day.
As for a timeline, Glicksman is very cautious. With the delay in goods and services that have been reported in all areas of the economy, she is cautious to predict a finish line. First step will be to find a contractor who can make the dreams come true with the dollars available. The town received $128,000 from a STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance Program) grant and $300,000 from the State Bond Commission towards the project.
To keep track of it all, the Board of Selectmen has appointed a Building Committee, consisting of Board of Finance member Dwight Rowland, Finance Director Anthony Genovese, Human Services Commission Chairman Susan Davidson, Human Services Director Jeanette Glicksman, Senior Center Director Christy Moriarty and Building Maintenance Foreman Brad Parsons.
Pictured: Susan Davidson and Jeanette Glicksman pore over floor samples for the Senior Center building project
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent