Gary Anderson is a former member of the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills Senior Commission. Following is his update on local senior services and plans for expanded programming.
When the new Senior Commission was seated in July 2016, with two members named by the Los Altos Hills City Council and five members named by the Los Altos City Council, we were reminded by the chairs of the two previous Senior Commissions of the three key foundations for living a long and satisfying life: Maintain an active social life, exercise appropriately and on a regular basis and exercise the mind as much as the body.
These three principles were incorporated from the outset in the commission’s work program for 2016-2017, with its primary focus on the programs and facilities for seniors at the Hillview and Grant Park community centers.
In the early months of 2017, we updated the two city councils on our work, based on our involvement in activities at the two centers and results of nearly 300 responses to a survey of seniors that we conducted on Open City Hall with the assistance of Los Altos city staff.
We reported with satisfaction that the program at Hillview, which this year celebrates 40 years of operation, and the new program started at Grant Park two years ago now reach 400 regular members and a similar number who participate on a drop-in basis. Programs at both centers, under the direction of Cheri Anderson, who joined city staff last summer, include activities supporting all three foundations for longevity. The Hillview senior lounge is open five days a week and Grant Park on Mondays and Wednesdays - for casual conversation, use of resources and organized activities.
Mental and physical activities
Based on results of our surveys, seniors come to the centers to participate in both mental and physical activities on an approximately equal basis.
Accomplished and novice players can find bridge games at both centers every day they are open, with mahjong available several days a week. At least three different discussion groups with knowledgeable leaders gather to learn and exchange opinions on current events. Certified volunteer instructors teach classes in Spanish for non-native speakers and English as a second language. And a wide variety of classes on topics such as disaster preparedness, health and nutrition, investment management and photography are held on a regular basis.
For seniors who find it more convenient to visit the Los Altos Hills facilities, nearly all of these topics are available under the direction of Sarah Robustelli, Los Altos Hills community services supervisor.
For exercise, regular classes are held every week by certified instructors to help seniors stay physically active. Stretching, balance and dance-based classes can be found nearly every day at the centers, but seniors also enjoy competing in bocce ball and pickleball, perhaps the fastest growing recreation activity for seniors as well as other age groups. The Los Altos Hills Community Services staff recently added a regular walking program to take advantage of the variety of trails available in the hills.
Weekly luncheons served by community volunteers are a key part of the social activities at each center, with approximately 60 seniors gathering for lunch at Grant Park on Wednesdays and a similar-sized group enjoying lunch together at Hillview on Fridays.
All of the activities specifically organized for seniors or open to all age groups are listed in the quarterly Los Altos and Los Altos Hills Recreation Department catalogs, announced in the bimonthly Spotlight bulletin mailed to Senior Program members and available online. In response to commission recommendations, information on the schedules is now updated weekly on the Nextdoor online neighborhood information network.
The Senior Commission recently offered formal recommendations to the Los Altos City Council for
improvements that will support continued expansion of the Grant Park activities and provided input to city staff as part of the feasibility study for new facilities at Hillview Community Center.
Based on these recommendations, city staff will be creating a permanent senior lounge at Grant Park later this year, similar to the lounge facilities at Hillview. The city council also has agreed to consider the possibility of added commercial kitchen facilities as part of renovation of the Grant Park Multipurpose Room. The Senior Commission believes that a full kitchen could be a popular resource for families and neighborhood groups in the surrounding south Los Altos neighborhoods as well as facilitating the senior lunches at Grant Park. The commission also looks forward to taking an active role in planning for improvements in facilities at Hillview.
There’s no question that programs for seniors in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are keeping us physically and mentally active and socially engaged, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
For more information on senior programming, visit losaltosca.gov/recreation/page/senior-program. ❀