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County breaks ground on wellness center

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

As more senior citizens move toward healthier lifestyles, their wellness needs are also changing.

Through a recent $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), seniors in Clayton County are getting a state-of-the-art facility to meet their needs.

Earlier this month, officials from the county, as well as the Parks and Recreation Department, broke ground on the new facility, which will stand next to the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale.

Mindy French, manager of the Frank Bailey Senior Center, said the new, 5,500-square-foot facility will address a growing desire for senior fitness programs, which the center presently cannot accommodate.

"This is not your grandparent's senior center," said French. "The baby boomers are very much into the wellness aspect ... everybody is very concerned about fitness. They think more about their health, and that is what they are demanding."

While the Frank Bailey Senior Center only has one room for athletic activities, the new facility will include a large, indoor fitness area, an indoor walking track, two large activity rooms, and two courtyards for outdoor activities.

French said the additional space will also be used for more group activities, such as Tai Chi, Urban Rebounding, Wii Sports, and nutritional classes.

"With the current [athletic] room, we can only fit eight [people] and that would be tight," she said. "In the old center, we could only have one class at a time. With this, we'll be able to have multiple classes.

"We'll also have two courtyards outside, so we can have activities outside when the weather permits," she added. "Right now, we are kind of confined to the building."

French said the center, which is expected to be in operation by the fall of 2009, will be the first stand-alone senior fitness center in the metro-Atlanta area that is operated by a county parks and recreation department.

Mary Byrd, Clayton County senior services administrator, said the new facility will help seniors live and stay in the county longer.

"They're excited," said Byrd. "They feel that this facility will be able to help them increase their activity level, because they don't feel comfortable joining some of the other spas, because of the age ranges of the people there. Here, they will be around other seniors.

"With the current facility being smaller, they just get less exercise," she added. "When we help them become healthier, it will help them with all the chronic diseases they have. This is a step toward keeping our seniors in the community, because we are bringing services they want."