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By Kristine Holloran

Correspondent

TOWNSEND — Seniors have their sights set on a new center and research is underway to get their feedback. Roughly 1,000 seniors reside in Townsend and so far more than 13 percent have returned their survey forms.

When questioned about programs at the center, more than half of the respondents said they would like more travel to museums and sightseeing trips.

Computer skills was the most popular learning request, followed by dance lessons.

In the Arts & Crafts category, painting, knitting/crocheting and photography were the favorites. The survey has also revealed a desire for health screenings, yoga and exercise classes. Respondents would also like more entertainment, including access to live performances, movies and speakers.

Library Director Heidi Fowler is managing the survey and encourages everyone to share their thoughts. The research is designed to ensure the community is considered throughout the process, Fowler said. Results will be collected at the library through June 28.

The regular bingo game is the most popular program, says Christine Clish, director for the Townsend Council on Aging. The seniors take bingo very seriously, she adds, and the game brings out some spunk in these elders.

Several women, including Helen Kezar, Helen Dawson, Ronda Collette and Edna Burnham, were happy to share their thoughts about the new center as they readied their bingo cards.

More participation from men would be welcome (membership at the Senior Center is overwhelmingly female) and a pot luck supper is on the horizon to attract them. “Dancing” was the most frequent request for the new center. Other requests include more exercise classes and divided rooms to allow for privacy during simultaneous activities.

Cornelia “Connie” Giles, a recent Massachusetts “Unsung Heroine” recipient, also looks forward to some dancing and adds the importance of designing space to better serve the needs of handicapped members.

Bill Hubbard and Neil Finn say they look forward to more space, a nice library and a bigger kitchen. Clish added that providing lunch five days a week is high on the wish list. She also hopes that the center will open Monday through Friday with more full days of operation.

Irene LaCount is also looking forward to more space and wants more entertainment added to the program.

Pearl Selfridge attended the ribbon cutting 12 years ago, for the current center, which she calls her “second home” and jokes that it once had a bed for her. As for the new center, she notes that everyone will finally have a chance to “spread out.” More crafts would be nice, she added.

The group commended Clish, who has been with the center for 12 years, on her management of the current space in the Family Dollar Shopping Mall. Hubbard added, “She’s (Clish) done a terrific job what she’s had to work with, and more room will help expand programs.”

Funding will be a determining factor for many future programs and the 2010 budget is in the planning stages. In addition, the Council on Aging is researching grants and exploring options to fund a new part-time outreach/volunteer coordinator.

According to Clish, the members are also asking for more frequent transportation to and from the center for activities. While a second Road Runner bus would be ideal, a golf cart would probably suffice for the many members who reside at nearby Atwood Acres.

Groundbreaking for the new center is scheduled for early July. The complex, which will also house the new library and a public meeting hall, will be located behind the police station on Dudley Road. The Senior Center and library complex, as well as the Highway Department garage, are gifts to the town from Sterilite Corporation.

Clish calls the gifts “unbelievable.” The generosity, honoring the city’s 275th anniversary, coincides with Sterilite’s celebration of 70 years in business and 40 years in Townsend. The Townsend Senior Center will be named after Roy and Nancy Shepherd, in recognition of their long-time service, contribution and commitment to the town.

Seniors are encouraged to help guide ongoing plans. Townsend’s Senior Center is located at 222 Main Street and opens weekdays at 9 a.m. Call (978) 597-1710 for more information and an activity schedule.

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