Martha Aasen remembers when Westport’s Senior Center was part of Staples High School.
Two small rooms were hidden between the fieldhouse and wood shop. It was open just a few hours a day. Lunch came from the school cafeteria.
In 2003, a new Senior Center opened on Imperial Avenue. It was a spectacular improvement.
Bright and airy, it was filled with rooms for meetings, lectures, fitness and films. There was a library and dining room too. Seniors flocked there for events, classes and camaraderie.
That was 15 years ago. When First Selectman Jim Marpe cuts a ribbon tomorrow (Friday, January 4, 11 a.m.), Westporters of all ages will marvel at the first major enhancement of the Senior Center since it opened.
The 9-month project comes in on schedule — and on budget. The town appropriated $3.975 million. Friends of the Senior Center raised $300,000 for equipment and amenities.
Last week, Senior Center director Sue Pfister, Friends president Leslie Wolf, and Aasen — now in her 90s, and as passionate about the Center as ever — offered a tour of the new facility. It blends seamlessly with the original.
The 5,000-square foot new wing includes:
- A new fitness center, with modern treadmills and machines
- A strength classroom, also used for tap dancing and Zumba
- A new library, with a computer and magnifiers
- A drop-in game room
- All new furniture and carpeting
- New display cases for artwork
- Outdoor access to the adjacent Baron’s South meadow, for tai chi and meditation
- Offices for program manager Holly Betts, and interns
- New restrooms with showers (for when the Senior Center is used as an emergency shelter).
Other parts of the Senior Center have been modernized too. There are new floors, chairs and tabletops in the “Sue’s Cafe” dining room (where “grab-and-go” food will soon be available); a new wood floor next door, for dance classes; a second art room, and a handsome new custom desk in the entry foyer.
“It’s even better than we envisioned,” says Aasen — who was closely involved in the project — proudly.
“We’ve had so many meetings, and we saw all the plans. But when you actually see it finished, it’s unbelievable.”
“Stunning!” adds Pfister.
The Senior Center director credits the project’s smooth completion to “tremendous cooperation” from local officials. The Building Department’s Steve Smith, the Department of Public Works, and Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava were all all-in.
Architect Brian Scheuzger designed the original building too. A.P. Construction — which is also handling the Westport Library’s Transformation Project — did all the work.
The Senior Center attracts a wide range of people, Pfister notes: Those who are very active; those looking for quiet activities; those who want to meet old friends, and those seeking companionship.
It’s a welcoming facility for some, a second home for others.
Now — for all of them — Westport’s Senior Center is better than ever.