The refurbished Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona is abuzz with seniors playing cards, discussing the latest news or enjoying lunch again.
Seniors seem to like taking part in activities at the Blair Senior Services building that includes 1,825 more square feet, lots of light and bright colors.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Enjoying a game of cards at the newly renovated Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona are (clockwise from the lower left) Mildred Burchfield, Ida Davis, Gerry Kines and Sabby Pierannunzio
The facility at 1320 12th Ave. has been closed for more than six months for remodeling of the 5,000 square-foot center and construction of the addition.
An open house to celebrate the reopening will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Julyl 14.
"The renovations represent a long-term investment to service the senior population in Blair County," said Angel Dandrea, community services coordinator for Blair Senior Services Inc. She said about 75 to 80 people come to the center daily which reopened Wednesday.
Remodeling, which began in January, also include rooms designated for specific activities, such as arts and crafts and fitness. The $378,000 project is being financed through an Aging Block Grant, state program income and the Blair Senior Fund, a charitable trust.
Sabby Pierannunzio, 87, of Altoona said she loves the look of the project, especially the fitness room.
"I'm the Exercise Lady," she said.
She remembers the fitness class being relegated to a back room when she began working out there more than 25 years ago. The class was later moved to the dining area. Now it has a room of its own.
Pierannunzio leads fitness classes three days a week and began by teaching low-impact aerobics in 1991 when the former instructor moved to Texas. She then took the reigns of the Peppi program when it was introduced in 1997 and now is the instructor for Healthy Steps in Motion.
When she is not teaching, Pierannunzio continues to maintain her stamina by taking part in a line dancing class.
She considers having separate areas for different activities a step forward.
One of those areas is a technology room where seniors can surf the Net or become knowledgeable in programs like Excel or Word.
Classes on the computers, a first for the center, are expected to begin in September after Penn State Altoona personnel have had an opportunity to consult with seniors about what programs they would like to learn, Dandrea said.
Whether it's reading, playing cards with friends or creating artwork, seniors go to designated spaces for activities that lessen distractions and create privacy.
The arts and crafts room features several tables and cabinets to store supplies for oil painting, ceramics, quilting, cross-stitch and other creative endeavors.
Even the billiards room is more secluded. It was always a room to itself, but a door to the foyer has been eliminated.
Skip Cole, 83, who has been shooting pool with his buddies there for about 15 years, pointed out that the ceiling has been lowered, the cue sticks are stored in stand-alone racks to prevent chalk from marking the walls and elevated chairs give observers a better view of the table.
"The center is the place you come to be entertained once you retire," said Cole of Altoona.
Minnie Williams, 82, of Altoona is thinking about signing up for one of the computer classes.
"My son has been after me to learn," she said.
She described the center's new look as "bright and clean."
A crochet class has caught Ida Davis' attention.
Davis, 85, of Altoona enjoys playing bingo and pinochle.
"I've met so many wonderful people," she said of her eight years as a participant at the center. "They encourage you to do different things."
Irene Skibo, 76, of Altoona said the updated look is really nice.
In the past, she did crafts and enjoyed bingo and puzzles, but confessed she does not frequent the center as much anymore.
"You get older and don't feel like coming," she said.
Her most recent pastime is chatting with friends while they play cards.
Although the seniors like the changes they are not sure the new look will entice the next generation.
Ann Gates, 79, of Altoona, who runs the bingo program, believes the younger seniors have other interests. She said her friends in their 60s turn down offers to visit the center.
Gates admits that her only interest is helping with bingo.
Her children and grandchildren occupy a lot of her time, and she also likes to take on home projects, like refurbishing metal lawn chairs from the 1950s or making new cushions for her porch furniture.
Dandrea said the center is working to adapt to the changing needs of seniors and hopes to target baby boomers with new programs. The oldest boomers started turning 65 in January with the youngest ones to hit 55 in about eight years.
Dandrea said an appreciation tea held at the Claysburg center earlier this year received a favorable response and the Altoona center is considering having musicians perform in the afternoons. Dinner-dances resume this month.
"Our long-term goal is to keep seniors in our area physically and mentally active, which in turn will hopefully delay or reduce the need for long-term care," she said.
Blair Senior Services Inc. operates six centers in the county and provides 32 services. Dandrea said the agency provides services to 20.4 percent of the population older than 60 and 35.7 percent to the population older than 80 in the county.
Gates said she believes the centers are important.
"Some people need the center. They have to get out, especially if they don't have family," she said.