Oswego center looks to attract baby boomer seniors with diverse programsBy Erika Wurst For Chronicle Media — March 11, 2020
When Susan Schauer accepted her position as the Oswego Senior Center manager six months ago, she knew quickly what she was up against.
“As an outsider (to the area), I got the feeling that most everyone in the community assumes they know what the Oswego Senior Center (OSC) is about. It’s something for you parents, or grandparents,” Schauer said.
She’s looking to turn those assumptions on their side and prove this isn’t the case.
Schauer’s goal is to bring in a new generation of seniors — the baby boomers — and show them just what the center offers. She wants to show them why most of the seniors they serve have been walking the halls of the OSC for a decade.
“We want to continue to serve the group we do serve, but bring in the next group, too,” Schauer said.
One way of doing that is creating more exercise and physical activity classes, which appear to be gaining popularity at the center. Pickle Ball games are being played four days a week, and additional exercise classes had to be added to the calendar.
Best thing about it, Schauer said, is that 95 percent of the offered classes are free to attend.
You want to sing? You can sing. You want to write? You can join the writing group. Play bags? Do yoga? Line dance? Learn ceramics? All of those activities and arts classes are offered.
There are also programs that happen outside the center’s walls. For instance, the center was abuzz after some lucky seniors took an unexpected backstage tour at The Paramount Theatre in Aurora during a recent day trip. Longer trips will take clients out of state or country.
“We want to change the connotation of us being a ‘senior-senior’ center,” Schauer said. “We just want people to know that we are open, and available. If you know anyone 60 or over tell them to check us out. We’ve got to get them through the doors first.”
It’s not just fun and games you’ll find behind the center’s doors. Education classes on a host of different topics are available at no cost, covering things from finance, to technology, to being a caregiver.
Friends gather on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for lunch, paying just a $5 donation if they can afford it, Schauer said. Nearly 80 seniors make it for lunch every Monday and Thursday afternoon.
Those meals are purchased with a grant subsidized by the federal government, but the OSC was required to match it. That grant, in addition to funds from the village of Oswego, Oswego Township, and Kendall County, are the center’s sole sources of funding aside from donations. Schauer, who is an accountant by trade, has determined that because of decreased sponsorships and donations over the past year, the OSC will be in the red $28,000.
She said she and the revamped staff are working hard to stabilize the center’s funds and push forward. As of yet, programming at the center has not been affected.
This being the case, Schauer’s goal now is to see as many seniors taking advantage of the offered programs as possibly can.
You know that term, ‘Okay, Boomer,’ ” Schauer said, referring to a recently coined catchphrase used to mock stereotypical attitudes of that generation. “That’s supposed to be a negative phrase, right? I say, be who you are. You are a boomer. But, look at all of these things you can still come and do. We’ve been serving the same generation for 10 years. We want to bring on a new one.”
Signing up for The Oswego Senior Center newsletter is an easy way to keep track of all happenings throughout the month. All classes, groups and activities are listed and emailed to you. Similar information can also be found on the OSC website at www.oswegoseniorcenter.org. They can also be found on Facebook.
Volunteer opportunities are always available at the Oswego Senior Center and donations can be made via the center’s website, www.oswegoseniorcenter.org.
A fundraiser is also being held from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 15 at IHOP restaurant, 2850 US-34, Oswego. IHOP will donate 20 percent of every meal price back to the OSC if you mention the Oswego Senior Center Group Raise.