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Senior programming kicks off at Riverside on Oct. 1

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Zumba, painting, mah-jongg and self-defense are among the classes the City of Oviedo plans to offer seniors at the Riverside Park Community Center starting Oct. 1 as part of a four-year-long effort to increase offerings for the city’s 55-plus community.

In 2018, about 70 residents and community leaders participated in brainstorming sessions discussing what programming local seniors want. That feedback was used to create the current plan to partition off the center’s 2,400-square-foot room and offer simultaneous programs, dedicated senior swim hours with water-based activities in the center’s eight-lane, 25-yard pool, and senior racquetball and tennis leagues at the center’s courts.

Here’s a list of planned programs

A list of desired activities activities were compiled by a large group of community members who worked with the City of Oviedo in 2018. Image courtesy of the City of Oviedo.

Recreation and Parks Director Paul Belden said he expects the social element to be the most beneficial to the seniors, which is why one of the programs will consist of two hours of social time each weekday.

“They can sit and have coffee, they can talk, they can play board games, they can play cards, they can watch TV, they can read the newspaper, they can meet as a group, they can do arts and crafts,” he said during Monday’s Oviedo City Council work session meeting, adding that if any of the programming lacks interest, it can be changed.

Work sessions are meant to allow the council to discuss complicated matters and give direction to staff. No voting takes place.

Current senior programming by the city consists of Senior Game Time, Senior Book of the Month Club and Senior Field Trips. During a July 7 meeting, staff reported that only about six to 15 seniors participate in the book club, and only four signed up for a recent field trip, which was a tour of the St. Johns River.

Getting there

One of the priorities identified by the group in 2018 was improved transportation options for local seniors to get to the center. 

According to Assistant City Manager Patrick Kelly, city staff plan to work with Lynx public transportation system to see if Riverside Park can be a stop on the local NeighborLink flex-service system.

Kelley said the city is also working with local age restricted communities to see if they will help promote the program and provide transportation to the community center.

Change in plans

On March 7, the Oviedo City Council approved using $2.5 million of the $21 million in federal Covid-19 relief funding allocated to the city for a community center with an intention to offer senior programming there.

City staff spent months scouting locations for a dedicated center and even got direction from the council to explore contract negotiations to purchase Fountain Head Baptist Church’s 3-acre property on Oviedo Boulevard. At the time, city staff said the property was appraised at $3.2 million. City Manager Bryan Cobb said he expected to be able to negotiate that amount down.

But during a July 7 meeting where city staff was seeking the council’s direction on several of their proposals to shave down this fiscal year’s budget, Recreation and Parks staff recommended using Riverside Park for senior programming instead, freeing the $2.5 million for other city expenditures. The council agreed.

Here’s where the fund will now go: 

The Oviedo City Council reached consensus to reallocate the $2.5 million federal COVID-19 relief funds from a potential community center to the projects/items in this chart. Image courtesy of the City of Oviedo.

The city has redirected some of the youth programming away from the multipurpose room in Riverside to create space for the seniors, including its Club Riverside Summer Camp.

Attendance has been lower for this camp in recent years – averaging 65 per week – and so the capacity will be lowered from 90 to 60, and more resources will be shifted to the city’s Adventure Camp, which operates within Riverside and will now have a capacity of 120 kids per week.

The resulting savings – $12,000 – will help fund the additional senior programming budget of $21,000. Operating account funding for Riverside Park will fund the remainder of the budget.

Here’s the planned fee structure:

The city will charge for the offered senior programming on a daily, monthly and annual basis. Image courtesy of the City of Oviedo.

Several council members said that many of their constituents have been asking for more senior activities in the city. Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert threw her support behind the plan.

“I think the beauty of this is that it’s not just board games. You’ve got all sorts of classes and things that people have been asking for,” Teuchert said.

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