Senior center in Oakdale to close due to declining attendance

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While bingo games and pigs in a blanket lunches have been popular activities at the Oakdale senior center, they have not attracted enough older adults to keep the program open.

LifeSpan Inc. of Homestead is closing the Oakdale Senior Resource Center because of declines in attendance, the nonprofit organization announced recently.

Instead, participants who want to continue with LifeSpan programs will have to travel to Carnegie, North Fayette and Bridgeville.

The program in the Oakdale Community Center, 104 Seminary Ave., will be limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays starting the week of Oct. 29. The program will end after Dec. 27.

The closure means Oakdale will lose $14,400 a year in rental income -- a noteworthy portion of the small borough's $729,000 budget this year.

"We're going to have to look at ways to make that up in our budget," council president Ron Gamble said.

LifeSpan offers social, recreational and informational programs to Allegheny County adults age 60 and older.

Mr. Gamble said the most popular attractions at the Oakdale center have been bingo and stuffed cabbage rolls -- traditionally known as halupkis or pigs in a blanket.

Average daily attendance at the Oakdale center has been 20 or fewer people, said James Marnell, chief program officer for LifeSpan. "[Attendance] has trailed off dramatically over the last five years," he said.

A minimum average of 30 people per day is required under a contract with the county Department of Human Services' Area Agency on Aging, the program's primary funder, Mr. Marnell said.

Most of the funding stems from proceeds of the Pennsylvania Lottery, he said.

The agency has developed guidelines that link funding to attendance, directing dollars toward centers that serve more people, he said.

As a result, the LifeSpan budget will be reduced by about $100,000 over the next three years, and the organization is consolidating and reorganizing operations in Oakdale, McKeesport and elsewhere.

"We are faced with the prospect of trying to continue to do what we do but with fewer resources," Mr. Marnell said.

Oakdale center participants -- mostly residents of North Fayette, Findlay, McDonald and South Fayette -- may attend any of the 10 other senior centers that LifeSpan operates in Allegheny County, or any of its satellite or extension programs.

Oakdale programming is going to be absorbed by the larger Chartiers Senior Resource Center, 300 Lincoln Ave. in Carnegie, Mr. Marnell said.

Some Oakdale programming may be moved to an extension program in the North Fayette Community Center, 8042 Old Steubenville Pike.

Bob Brozovich, the North Fayette parks and recreation director, said the township has donated space to LifeSpan this year for a few programs and is willing to work with LifeSpan to expand offerings.

"Whatever benefits our seniors is fine with us," he said.

Other nearby LifeSpan locations are the Bridgeville center, 601 McMillen St., and the Father Ryan Arts Center, 420 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks, where LifeSpan has just begun to establish a limited presence, Mr. Marnell said.

The decision to close the Oakdale senior center was no surprise.

In 2009, LifeSpan said the program was in danger due to dwindling attendance, and Oakdale allowed the group to rent the community center on a month-by-month basis.

"We did not lock them into any long-term lease because we knew they were having trouble," borough secretary Kelly Rohbeck said.

The borough is able to generate some money through private rentals, but during the week, veterans, firefighters, Boy Scouts and other local groups use the facility free of charge, she said.

Mr. Marnell said one reason for the attendance downturn in Oakdale is reduced physical ability among older participants.

"Younger seniors are opting for other kinds of ways to spend their time and their energy," he said.

In general, he said, larger centers with more diverse offerings and equipment tend to attract more people than smaller, neighborhood centers.

The Carnegie center, for example, offers daily lunch, dancing and exercise classes, card games, Wii video games, bingo, health screenings, movies, community excursions, day trips and informational presentations.

Carnegie hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For information, visit www.lifespanpa.org or call LifeSpan Regional Manager Karen Seibel at the Carnegie Center, 412-276-5056, or Center Services Operations Director Kim Rollinson, 412-464-1300, ext. 127.

neigh_west - neigh_south

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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