Alexandria Senior Center plans for 'silver tsunami' and a possible move
The center is looking into the idea of moving inside the Alexandria Area YMCA.
ALEXANDRIA — In 10 years, the population of people aged 65 and older in Douglas County is projected to be at 27% or about 11,056 people.
That statistic was shared by Alexandria Senior Center Executive Director Shelli-Kae Foster with Douglas County commissioners at their Tuesday, Feb. 15, meeting. Foster found the statistic in the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission’s annual report.
“We are entering a silver tsunami,” Foster told the commissioners, noting that there will soon be more retirees than children under the age of 14.
She presented an update to the commissioners on the senior center, which included how it impacts the senior population in the county, its financial picture, future plans and more.
Foster said the Alexandria Senior Center has 650 active members and is growing. More than 60 people visit the center on a daily basis and there are more than 15,000 hours of volunteerism daily. She also noted that 130 meals are delivered daily throughout Douglas County through the Meals on Wheels program, which is housed at the center.
Although the majority of members come from Alexandria, Foster noted that members come from all over Douglas County. For instance, 27 members are from Ida Township, while 15 are from Hudson Township, eight are from Miltona and Miltona Township, and seven are from Moe Township. Members actually come from 16 of Douglas County’s 20 townships and six of the 11 incorporated cities within the county.
The Senior Center supports area seniors in a variety of ways, including through support and education, like driver safety classes, Sunday music series, Meals on Wheels, congregate dining and more, said Foster. It also offers health and wellness activities, she said, like accessible yoga and balance classes, foot care clinic, health cooking classes, games and volunteer opportunities.
The senior center, which was built in 1984, has a fully self-supported staff, has one full-time executive director, three full-time position volunteers and a nine-member board of directors. Additionally, it operates as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
Facility advisory committee in place
Because of space needs and parking needs, along with a few other issues, a facility advisory committee was put together and over the course of six months, they met eight times. The committee researched the existing facility to determine if it is meeting current needs and whether it could meet future needs, along with determining a path forward.
The committee determined that the facility lacks adequate parking. There are nine spots in the parking lot and three spots on the north side of the building after 10:30 a.m.
“Parking is such an issue,” she said. “And we are really landlocked right now.”
The committee also determined that the current facility has limited programming space, Foster said.
She also said that managing and maintaining a 9,000 square-foot building is not part of the center’s mission.
Throughout the time the committee met, they toured 10 senior centers throughout Minnesota in communities similar to Alexandria and Douglas County. Foster said all of the senior centers were partnered with other programs in the same facility, like in Delano where the building houses the senior center and city hall. In Monticello, the senior center is housed inside the community center.
In addition, Foster said the senior center programs were government funded or received donations from city, county and township governments.
She shared numbers for four of the locations the facility committee toured and the Alexandria Senior Center had the lowest percentage of support from city, county and township governments. The Alexandria Senior Center has an operating budget of about $130,000 with about $30,000 (23%) in support from city, county and township governments.
Two of the four locations she shared numbers from have a similar population as Alexandria (about 14,000) – Hutchinson (14,009) and Monticello (14,564). Hutchinson has a $121,000 operating budget with $96,000 (79%) coming from city, county and township governments. Monticello has a $125,000 operating budget with $106,353 (85%) coming from city, county and township governments.
Foster said she is very thankful for the funding she receives from the county, city and townships, but did ask the commissioners to increase the county’s support in 2023. Currently, the city, townships and county provide $30,000, but she is hoping that increases to $70,000 in 2024 and then in 2025 it increases to $90,000. She also told the commissioners she was hoping to get a letter of support from the county by April 15.
“We need to know you are committed,” said Foster.
YMCA could be the answer
The facility advisory committee also concluded that the proposed expansion project at the Alexandria Area YMCA would check all the boxes for what the Alexandria Senior Center’s needs are — more space, ample parking, intergenerational opportunities, great member base and additional opportunities for health, wellness and social interactions.
Jackie Peters, executive director of the YMCA, said the Y would like move to forward with it capital campaign yet this year and would love to include the Alexandria Senior Center as part of its expansion. The cost of the project, depending on what components are a part of it, could be between $4 and $7 million, said Peters.