At Cobb County’s newest multipurpose center for senior citizens, computer kiosks line the walls and they’re rarely unoccupied.
You’ll also see seniors with gym bags scurrying to work out. Others are making their way to medical appointments. And there are classes, so many classes. You can learn to make pottery, roll sushi or get music to play on your iPad.
Warning: This is not your grandmother’s senior center.
The Cobb County Wellness Center — an infant, just barely a year old — was designed with the baby boomer in mind. Corporate-style classrooms have white boards and ergonomic chairs. A fitness center is outfitted like any other typical gym. There’s a theater with a stage. A café, open to the public for lunch, has a fresh salad bar and bistro seating.
“We’re the best-kept secret around,” said Jessica Gill, Cobb County Senior Services director.
Cobb senior services and volunteers began planning the center in 2004, cobbling together funding using county money along with federal grants and fundraisers.
Former senior services director Pam Breeden, now retired, envisioned having a place that could fill gaps in what was typically offered to seniors through traditional programs, Gill said. One of those gaps was health care.
Here, the centerpiece is the Senior Wellness Clinic operated and staffed by WellStar Health Systems. The clinic serves underinsured and not-yet-Medicare-eligible adults ages 55-64. General health care services include annual exams, prescriptions and disease management.
Gill said having the on-site clinic makes all the other programs — fitness, education and nutrition — work in sync.
“They always had wellness in mind, and knew (the health clinic) is something they needed to make it work,” Gill said.
In the fitness gym, called Workout Central, 64-year-old Tom Flynn of Marietta pushes the pedals on a recumbent stepper in an effort to stave off any future balance issues.
“One in three seniors will fall, and with that comes a trip to the hospital,” he said, citing fears that motivate him to complete his hour-and-a-half daily workout. The payoff has been sweet: stronger quads, 25 pounds lost and no money out of pocket.
“Not bad,” he said. “I’m more confident in walking and generally getting around.”
Robert Ewing, 61, of Mableton also spends a good portion of his morning working out with the fitness equipment. The double-lung transplant recipient completes his routine without even breathing hard.
Cobb has other senior centers, most of which focus on socialization and operate on a set daily schedule. Participants have activities in the mornings and afternoons, and eat a hot lunch together in between. The average age at Cobb’s neighborhood senior centers is about 75.
Gill stresses that Cobb’s Wellness model won’t replace the neighborhood centers. For example, the Marietta Senior Center operates separately but in the same building as the Wellness Center.
“Older adults want to be able to choose, so there will always be an option. It’s important that they be able to socialize and that their nutrition be where it needs to be,” she said.
But the Wellness Center may change the way people view aging, says Community Outreach Director Kathy Lathem.
“Aging isn’t synonymous with poor health. You work at it. You take care of yourself,” she said.
Cobb County Wellness Center
1150 Powder Springs St., Marietta
Serving adults 55 and older.
Activity hours: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Transportation: Cobb Community Transit route with covered bus stop.
• WellStar Senior Wellness Clinic
Total health care for qualified seniors ages 55 to 64.
• Cobb Café
Chef-prepared lunches served 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday. Open to public.
• Teaching kitchen for cooking classes
• Dinner theater with stage
Seating: 300 theater-style; 150-180 with tables. Available for rental in 2014.
• Workout Central
Strength-training machines, recumbent stepper, elliptical and treadmills.
Open Monday-Thursday 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Fridays 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
• Art studio with kiln
• Fitness studio
For more information about scheduling or classes call the Wellness Center at 770-528-5355 or visit www.cobbseniors.org.