When I was elected to the Raleigh City Council three years ago, the first issue I worked on as part of the Public Works Committee was funding and approval of a new Senior City, which was approved by passage of a bond referendum.
There was infighting. One group, SAG, which worked diligently for the center and the bond, believed the funding should be used for their center. Another group of seniors in North Raleigh, who got thrown out of their space all the time because of programming conflicts, had other ideas. They wanted the center to be located near them.
We reached a compromise. I was in the thick of it, negotiating, listening, cajoling. It was great to be able to come up with a solution that made everyone happy: two centers, the larger one at Whitaker Mill and a second at Millbrook Exchange Park. Because of this connection, the centers have always had a special place in my heart.
Today we broke ground on the Whitaker Mill Center and it has a whole new meaning for me. Now when I look in the face of people like Jean and Jilma and others, I have a whole new appreciation of what this center represents to them … Physical activity. Mental agility. Social connections. Cards and games. Comfort. Friendships. A meal. A hug. A helping hand. A smile. A laugh. A sense of accomplishment for making it happen. A legacy. A place to call their own. All the little things that make it a big thing.
I never would have known this in an intimate way if my mom hadn’t come to live with me. I take my mom twice a week to Independence Health, where she enjoys all of the above amenities. And I’ve come to understand what going there means to her.
As we pushed the shovel into the ground and flung the dirt, symbolizing the start of construction of this new building, I had a lump in my throat. I knew that many seniors would come to enjoy this new facility in ways I had never understood before. I thought, “Maybe my mom will get to go here.” Now I never imagined thinking that three years ago.
These senior centers, AKA “active lifestyle facilities,” are a joint project of the City of Raleigh and Wake County. You can check out the designs by clicking here.