Senior Center Now ‘Chatham Center For Active Living’

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: council on aging

New signs will be needed to identify the senior center as the Chatham Center for Active Living. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM — What’s in a name? Political momentum for construction of a new “Chatham Center for Active Living” to replace the current senior center, proponents hope.

On the advice of the council on aging board, the select board voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt that new name for the senior center as part of a larger effort to build voter support for a new facility.

Council on Aging board Chair Pat Burke said the effort to re-brand the senior center has been in talks for five years, but was recently renewed as part of the push to build voter support for a new building. Losing the word “senior” aims to further engage citizens between the ages of 55 and 70, “noting the significant resistance, particularly among younger seniors, to the concept of aging, and any reference to them as ‘seniors,’ ‘elders,’ ‘aging,’ et cetera,” she said.

The board developed a list of alternative names that are now in use around the Cape and elsewhere, and narrowed that list to five. With help from the town’s information technology department, the council on aging developed a public survey that was circulated online and in paper form. There were 262 respondents who graded each potential name on a five-point scale, COA board member Nancy Fields said. The most favored name, which more than half of respondents graded in the top two grades out of five, was the Chatham Center for Active Living. It edged out the next two competing names, the “Chatham Adult Resource Center” and the “Chatham Community Life Center.”

“This was a survey. This was not a vote,” Fields said. But in the end, the COA board agreed with the respondents that the best name was the Center for Active Living. The name applies only to the senior center building, not to the council on aging or its board, which is a name specified by state statute.

COA Director Leah LaCross said that, in her fairly short time on the job, she has already heard people express the need to re-brand the senior center, a name that “doesn’t seem to appeal to the younger crowd, the younger generation of older adults.” LaCross said she fully supports the new moniker, which comes at a time when the council on aging has just filled all open staff positions and is ready to resume full programming. The facility will be open five days a week once again starting in October, with a wider array of services available for citizens.

“Yes we have a lot more work to do, but we have a whole team now and we’re ready and willing to put in a full effort,” LaCross said.

Select board member Dean Nicastro praised the COA board for its “thoughtful and deliberative process” in choosing a new name. Nicastro was present at Monday’s meeting when the COA board voted its choice.

“You guys have been working hard,” select board Chair Jeffrey Dykens said. He also praised the “very democratic” process by which the new name was selected.

With a new name in place, the COA is continuing its work to find a viable plan to build a new facility to replace the current senior center, which is poorly designed, undersized and in disrepair. Previous efforts to build a new senior center on town-owned land on Middle Road and on donated land on Main Street in West Chatham failed to win enough votes at town meeting, and the select board had a lukewarm response to proposals to co-locate a new facility at the community center.

“We are actively working on finding the best plan and the best size to accommodate all of the exciting programs and services that we have to offer,” Burke said. “We look forward to the day that we open the new Chatham Center for Active Living.”

“This is the start,” Fields said of the name change. “We want to have a roll-out. We want to make this impactful and we want to tie this in with our thinking about a new building.” The goal is to increase visibility of the COA’s programs “so that the community understands where we’re coming from, what we do, how we do it, why we do it, and how much space we need to do it properly,” Burke said.

Select board member Michael Schell said his “ear’s to the ground a little bit” when it comes to voter interest in the COA. “I think I can hear some pounding hooves a little bit, and I really endorse that, and I’m excited to see what comes from here.”