Barely two decades after it was dedicated, a growing elderly population energized by a windfall of new programming is rapidly outgrowing Foxboro’s first-ever independent senior center on Central Street.
That message was brought home to selectmen Tuesday night by an enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd of seniors who packed the Town Hall meeting room in support of a new, larger and possibly multi-generational facility.
“We envision a new center focusing on the needs of all residents,” said Mildred Greene, who chairs the Council on Aging and Human Services.
Lobbying with an energy and focus that belied their years, seniors asked selectmen to fund a feasibility study to explore a range of future options – from a larger, senior-only facility to a multi-generational hub incorporating recreation, healthy-living and learning programs for all ages.
Human services Director Marc Craig, who helped usher in such a transition during seven years overseeing senior programming in Randolph, said there are both pros and cons to a joint facility.
“Part of a feasibility study would involve looking at that,” he said.
Craig, hired just a year ago to replace former human services director Vicki Lowe, said he had fully expected to build and broaden participation by Foxboro seniors, just not this soon.
“At this point we’re really rocking it,” he said of daily attendance that regularly exceeds 100 seniors. “We really are.”
Selectman Chris Mitchell concurred.
“You’ve done a phenomenal job in the past year,” Mitchell said, raising his voice to ensure he was audible throughout the crowded meeting room.
To accommodate growing demand, Craig said programs are currently being held in both the senior center lobby and computer room. In addition, hours at the facility have been expanded on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Attempts to address limited on-site parking have been less successful.
“Parking has been tough,” Craig said. “I’m actually stacking larger programs next to smaller ones, just to keep parking in check.”
Impressed by Tuesday night’s turnout, board members agreed to bring a request for funding before voters at a Special Town Meeting tentatively scheduled for Nov. 4.
Saying that he has personally witnessed the need during recent visits to the senior center, Town Manager William Keegan backed the request, noting that elders comprise a growing segment of the community.
“It’s 25 percent plus, and growing,” he said.
However, Keegan suggested that any town meeting appropriation to underwrite the costs of a feasibility study be complimented with private fund-raising, possibly enlisting the Friends of Foxboro Seniors.
“That would put skin in the game,” Keegan said. “I think it’s important to show that kind of commitment.”
Paul Dumas, president of the Friends group, agreed and recalled the booster organization had been instrumental in helping raise funds to construct the existing facility.
Selectmen Chairman Mark Elfman said establishing a subcommittee to study the problem might be a good start.
“I’ve been hearing from seniors that the center is getting pretty small,” Elfman said.