Community Recreation Center helps build community connections along with health and fitness

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Every day, hundreds of activity-seeking adults make their way to the Community Recreation Center, 6842 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, Colorado. First-time visitors might be new to the area, ready to start a fitness program, finding new activities in retirement, or regrouping after a life-changing event.

As different as those goals are, they all have a common element: making a connection to a community. “That rich social connection is just as important, if not more important, than staying active and healthy,” says Nancy Wellnitz, CRC’s supervisor of adult and senior programs. Every day, she sees how much customers value that connection, whether it’s in the cardio room with no TVs but lots of conversation, the lobby where friends meet, or the lively informal groups that gather before and linger after each recreation activity.

Across the metro area, and across the U.S., community programs for adults and seniors are constantly growing and changing. In order to welcome and serve all participants, whether they’re new or seasoned, staff and volunteers need a broad knowledge of the community, the adults and seniors living there, and what programs appeal to them and meet their changing needs. “The population of Jefferson County is aging faster because the suburbs themselves are aging,” Nancy says. “But people are staying more active and healthy as they age.”

These adults and seniors also want to have safe, independent and fulfilling lives, Nancy says. For that reason, the CRC offers many free expos and programs to monitor health and support safe living. For example, the center offers a range of free assessments and services: blood pressure and blood sugar checks, eye glass servicing, lung function testing, veterans’ benefits checks, mental health assessments, Medicare orientation classes, and weekly meetings with the community resource officer for the Arvada Police Department. Support groups for Parkinson’s and low vision meet monthly at the CRC. Each season there are several informational lobby expos on such topics as downsizing, living independently at home, and general resources. Ongoing free activities include the lending library and listening library, as well as monthly Bingo. Finally, there are regularly held free orientation events for the Center and some of its programs such as SilverSneakers and hiking/snowshoeing.

Many other programs on topics of interest are offered at minimal cost – $1 to $5. For example, an upcoming “Timely Talks” series highlights caregiver resources, heart health, and how to recognize early signs of dementia.

Despite the strong and diverse group of activities noted above, most of the Center’s programs center on recreation. This is different from city-based centers, which tend to offer a wider range of community services, Nancy says. “Even so, many visitors and participants start with the Community Recreation Center for help in connecting to all kinds of resources beyond their doors.”

That’s why the staff and volunteers at the CRC make a point of knowing their way around the community: Apex Park and Recreation District, the city of Arvada, Jefferson County, and the Denver metro area. Nancy and other staff members are active with senior and adult advocacy and care organizations around the county and the metro area, so as to stay current with trends and tap into the collective resources of their colleagues.

It’s a challenge to quickly find a solution for every person who is looking for guidance, Nancy says. They do have a good-sized collection of community resources, starting with the Slate, the Center’s own free biannual program guide. It lists all the programs offered at the Center, plus a community resource section containing information and contacts for about 20 different local agencies helping seniors throughout Arvada and Jefferson County: support groups, transportation solutions, organizations helping with food, energy and care challenges, and much more. The CRC also maintains a supply of the Seniors Blue Book, a comprehensive listing of resources for aging well in the metro area published annually. Based on the staff’s interaction with information-seeking customers, Nancy says the most pressing issues for seniors is transportation, so the CRC also stocks “Getting There,” a guide to transportation published by Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council.

One other important component to help connect people to resources is…people. “We are one of the few centers that has not gone to an automated phone system,” Nancy notes. “Just by answering the phone, the volunteer front desk staff offers something so valuable: a personal touch, knowledge, and a senior greeting a senior.”

For more about the Community Recreation Center, activities and volunteer opportunities, call 303-425-9583 to hear a friendly voice!