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New-style senior centers are in demand in N.J.
The Record
THURSDAY JUNE 21, 2012, 12:22 AM

They don’t want to listen to Sinatra; they want to learn how to play the guitar.

Sheryl Sarnack leading a yoga class at the Senior Source at the Shops at Riverside in Hackensack.
CARMINE GALASSO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Sheryl Sarnack leading a yoga class at the Senior Source at the Shops at Riverside in Hackensack.

They don’t want baked chicken and mashed potatoes; they want baked brie and cabernet.

And they certainly don’t want to go anyplace where the day’s biggest excitement is the visiting nurse checking their blood pressure.

Senior centers are being reinvented to cater to a baby boom generation looking for something different in a golden-years hangout. Many of these over-65 residents are in good health, working full time or taking care of grandchildren. They don’t want to be treated like they’re old — in fact many won’t even go to a place with “senior” over the door.

“I think the name, ultimately, is going to have to change at some point,” said Bonnie Leibowitz, co-president of the New Jersey Association of Senior Center Directors.

She added: “I have 90-year-olds who tell me they don’t want to be around older people all the time.”

The label “senior center” conjures an image of a room with metal folding chairs and wheelchairs positioned around rectangular tables, a bland but nutritious lunch at every setting. In the corner — to be rolled out later — a bingo cage.

But more and more, seniors are looking for places to meet where they won’t just pass the time but get some advice on how to better manage it. Places where they can discuss art, books and movies and get tips on how to decrease stress, de-clutter their homes, get jobs, stay healthy, stay fit, stay out of the nursing home — or for that matter, stay out of their imagined idea of a senior center where the highlight is a cup of applesauce for dessert.

One such hip gathering place for seniors opened in Hackensack’s Shops at Riverside mall two years ago in a stylish storefront. It looks more akin to a hotel lobby or a cocktail lounge than one of the government-run “senior nutrition sites” in North Jersey.

“I just thought it looked interesting,” said Lola Small, 81, who popped into the Senior Source one day and became a regular...Read More