It was too wet to enjoy the new outdoor amenities during the West Knox County Senior Center’s open house last week, but inside, the facility buzzed with activity. Classes were showcased, food was served, and Farragut Mayor Ron Williams and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs were on hand to celebrate the expansive facility that first opened mere weeks before the pandemic shut it down.
The new senior center is in the former Faith Lutheran Church at 239 Jamestowne Blvd. The building, which also houses the Farragut Community Center, was purchased by the town of Farragut and renovated by Knox County. The partnership allowed Farragut to realize its long-time dream of having a community center and enabled Knox County to offer seniors more space and parking than what was available at Strang Senior Center.
Plans to hold a grand opening in 2020 had to be scrapped, says Darrell Gooding, the senior center’s coordinator, but the later date allowed the center to thank the Farragut and Bearden Rotary clubs for some major gifts. The groups pooled their resources to furnish an outdoor recreation area with metal benches and picnic tables, cornhole and beanbag game sets, and raised garden beds. They even threw in credit at Mayo’s Garden Center for gardening supplies. The center recognized the donation with a plaque during the open house.
While many seniors have happily returned to the center, attendance hasn’t returned to the level it was before the pandemic, Gooding says. Some groups, like bridge, Mexican dominoes and the S.A.I.L. (Stay Active and Independent for Life) fitness class, are better attended than others. The center’s library has been heavily utilized by those who aren’t yet ready to be part of a group, he says.
The center recently offered an art class for Alzheimer’s patients that was a huge success. Saraha Brawner, a doctoral student who works at the center, taught the seven-week class and hopes to offer another session soon. While the students enjoyed working on art projects, socialization was the most important part of the class, she says.
“It was so much fun! Everybody was so wonderful and sweet.”
The Covid-19 closure was long enough that there’s been a shift in the West Knox senior population, Gooding says. Some new participants chose to retire during the pandemic and are looking for activities. Others moved to be closer to family or passed away. Those who are currently coming to the center are enthusiastic.
“They’re so ready for it. It’s a place to get together with friends and make new friends,” he says. “Many seniors face isolation, but you don’t have to be alone. Some just come and hang out in the lounge,” he says.
The West Knox County Senior Center is open 7:30-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. To see the most recent newsletter/event calendar, visit here.
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.