NEWBURY — The Council on Aging can’t expand offerings for the town’s oldest residents because there is not enough space at the senior center, according to the council’s chairman.
In a letter to selectmen dated Dec. 24, council Chairman Chaz Rubin outlined the problem, which he hopes town officials will consider when planning for future facility needs.
Rubin indicated that while the recommended square footage for a senior center is 5 to 6 feet per person, Newbury’s center provides 1.6 feet per senior.
The most recent U.S. census — conducted 10 years ago — says there are about 1,000 seniors in Newbury. The senior center, located in Newbury Elementary School, is 1,621 square feet — or 1.6 square feet per senior.
This lack of adequate space severely limits activities, classes, events and meetings, Rubin wrote.
Rubin noted that the center’s layout inhibits the ability to conduct confidential conversations. He said accessibility to the center is “difficult at best.”
Evelyn Noyes, a member of the organization’s board of directors, told selectmen Tuesday night that the board has established a committee to investigate the council’s current and future space needs, with the committee eventually planning a report for town officials.
Noyes stressed that a newly constructed space is not necessarily required. She and others from the council recently visited Merrimac’s senior center, which was created within an existing building. The group was impressed with the facility and the offerings provided, Noyes noted.
“We totally appreciate the fact that the town has just approved the much-needed police station and that the town is continuing to discuss accommodations for town offices, therefore, we apologize if our request compounds the situation,” Rubin wrote. “However, we feel it is prudent to bring our request to you so it can also be considered for the future of the community planning.”
“It’s a good thing,” Selectman Geoff Walker said of the council’s proactive efforts, noting that it would likely take awhile to lay the groundwork necessary to turn the request into a reality.