The need for a senior center has been an issue discussed in Carpinteria for some time. Nona Hulick, a Carpinteria resident who was celebrated at the City Council meeting on Monday for turning 100, told staffers that plans for the senior center have been discussed since she was 15 years old.
Staffers from the city shared their findings from a survey conducted about the best ways such a place could serve the community.
There are about 3,600 senior citizens who live in Carpinteria. The survey conducted by the city received 399 respondents with 348 required to be considered an accurate survey number.
According to the report, 55 of the respondents were ages 50 to 65, 175 of the respondents were ages 66 to 75, 101 respondents were ages 76 to 85, and 20 respondents were ages 86 to 95.
Carpinteria’s median age is about 18% older than the state average, according to a staff report, with 27.4% of the city’s population older than 60, which is the highest percentage in Santa Barbara County, despite not having a senior center. In the county, 20.4% of the population is older than 60, and 19.7% for the state.
The Carpinteria City Council held a special meeting workshop on Jan. 23, where members of the public communicated an immediate need for senior services. The expressed a desire for a “hub” where seniors could gather for social and programming purposes, a desire for the city to create a long-term senior services plan in addition to immediate senior service programming. Individuals and business owners in the community expressed their willingness to volunteer their time and services to a center for seniors.
Location was an important factor for whether people would use the facility. Of those surveyed, 18% said location would inhibit their participation.
Respondents were asked to pick multiple options for what they would want the center to be used. Of those surveyed, 80% of respondents said they wanted the senior center for social gathering, 69% for exercise, 67% as a place to meet before leaving on day trips, 58% to get the opportunity to learn a new skill and 56% for entertainment.
According to the survey, seniors preferred that it operate on weekdays from normal business hours — either 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Staff recommends a focus on the “hub,” partnerships, determine a budget and establish a project head.
The center is a “non-budgeted” item. In order to organize the project, there would need to be dedicated staff members.
Public commenters and staff agreed that starting the project is a “chicken or the egg problem.” The city can’t start the project without a budget, but they would need a full-time employee to determine a budget and spearhead a project, and funding for the employee would come out of the budget for the project, which has not yet been determined.
Mayor Wade Nomura suggested that the committee to lead the project could be the same committee that was put in charge of conducting the survey for the project.
The City Council voted for the staff to return at a later meeting with detailed options for the next steps of the project.
“You look at senior centers around, they kind of evolved into what they are,” Councilman Gregg Carty said. “So I think once you get a senior center started, the seniors themselves are gonna be the biggest supporters, and I think we’ll probably have one of the nicest senior centers around.”