How Millcreek seniors live life to the fullest
Nov 25, 2019 10:30AM
By Hannah LaFond
A group photo from the antique hat fashion show organized by the Millcreek Advisory Committee. (Provided by Sunni Hobbs McKinney)
By Hannah LaFond | [email protected]
Ballet, yoga, bridge, line dancing and karate are just some of the most popular classes at the Millcreek Senior Center, where anyone 60 years or over is welcome to participate in classes, activities and eat lunch for free.
The Millcreek Senior Center was completed in 2012 and is one of 16 Salt Lake County senior centers. It shares its building with the Millcreek Library and the recreation center. Having a shared space makes it a great one-stop center for the community.
Upon entering, the building is a lot livelier than one might envision a senior center. You could walk straight into a line dancing class moving to “All About the Bass.”
A wide variety of classes are offered, and Sunni Hobbs McKinney, Senior Center manager, said she can never be sure which ones will take off. The group of seniors who attend the center are very physically and intellectually active, and try as she might McKinney can’t get bingo to take off with them. She jokes that they consider it "too senior." Tai chi and bridge go over much better with this group.
Unlike many of the other senior centers, Millcreek has a cafe model. This means all the lunches are prepared on-site, which they serve Monday through Friday. McKinney told the Millcreek Journal they usually feed between 80 and 120 seniors a day, except Thursday when they get anywhere up to 220 people.
“Salmon day is huge,” McKinney said. “Salmon Thursday is a thing that people all know about. I’ve had people from Lehi come out here. I’ve had people from Farmington, and anyone’s welcome.”
Thanksgiving dinner is also a popular day when McKinney said they get up to 350 attendees.
Providing healthy food to seniors is an important mission of the Senior Center. After research found many elderly were malnourished, facilities like this began to provide food. This started with the Older Americans Act in 1965. Centers also started providing fitness classes and activities to keep their bodies active, but they quickly found it was about more than physical health. It's about mental and emotional health.
“Depression levels within seniors are so high and that has everything to do with socialization,” McKinney said. “Studies over and over tell us what helps keep you looking forward to waking up is having friends, having connections to people. So, that to me is really what this center is about.”
And fortunately, the Millcreek seniors do a great job looking out for each other. McKinney said new visitors are always welcome to the center with open arms. Nobody ever sits alone for long and one senior has even taken it upon himself to serve lunch to any of the less mobile visitors.
One of McKinney’s key concerns is raising the seniors’ self-esteem, especially that of the women. “So many women don’t feel beautiful anymore. It is a serious issue with aging women. They feel like they’ve just got nothing to say, that they’re not important like they are invisible,” McKinney said.
They’ve had a few programs to help combat this mindset. One is the ballet classes run by Ballet West at the center, which many of the women enjoy and have benefited from.
Another hugely successful event that was put on by the Millcreek Advisory Committee, who raise money for the center, was an antique hat fashion show. One of the women has an antique hat collection and the committee came up with the idea to invite seniors to model them.
McKinney admits at first she thought it was a crazy idea, but she was overjoyed when about 50 women signed up to model the hats. The advisory committee set up a photo-shoot and even got a catwalk for the ladies to walk down.
“They looked fabulous,” McKinney said. “To see them all feel so beautiful and be the center of attention, it was amazing.”