Gifts come in many forms on Senior Citizens Day

Employees from a Huntington Beach nursing facility took time last week to show their appreciation to senior citizens.

Staff members of the Beachside Nursing Center were on the Huntington Beach Pier last Thursday handing out cookies and cheering on seniors who were on their morning beach walk. It was a way to celebrate National Senior Citizens Day, which is observed Aug. 21.

“We work with seniors every day, and we just wanted to find a fun way to get out into the community,” Beachside administrator Taylor Florence said. “We love working with the seniors of Huntington Beach.”

Many people politely declined the cookies brought by the group from Donna B’s in Laguna Niguel.

“They deserve a cookie after all their years,” said Megan Barahona, the center’s dietary supervisor. “It’s about moderation in all things.”

Meanwhile, at Rodgers Seniors’ Center, few people knew it was National Senior Citizens Day, but the center’s regulars felt as though they had received a gift anyway.

Many of the seniors were just finding out during breakfast that the city had begun to move forward with a new facility, deciding to issue a $16.4 million bond to pay for the new center. It also will seek bids for the construction contract.

“We’ve been waiting,” resident Shirley Reed said. “I think we should be gathering up funds to buy the pillows and decorations for the lobby.”

Reed, 85, said the new center — to be located at 18000 Goldenwest St., on the west side of Central Park — will be much more convenient for her.

Like many other residents, she describes the conditions at Rodgers, which is on Orange Avenue near 17th Street, as less than ideal. At the Aug. 18 City Council meeting, Councilman Dave Sullivan said Huntington Beach has the best senior services and programs but the worst senior facility in Orange County.

“There have been some leaks here and there from the ceilings,” said resident Virginia Torney, 82. “We hope all of that will not happen again with the new center.”

It has been an eight-year battle for Huntington Beach to get a new senior center built after a citizens group sued the city over the project’s environmental impact report, saying it was insufficient.

California’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in July that the city had complied with court orders to report on alternative locations for the project.

A second lawsuit is still outstanding, though city officials are confident they will win in court again.

Now that the wheels for the new center are in motion, many seniors offered suggestions for it.

Susan Haben, 71, said she’d like to see a pool similar to the ones she used at a YMCA in Pennsylvania. “It’s the best thing for an old person,” she said. “You’re getting double the resistance in the water.”

Torney and Rae Weiler, 78, simply want more space, especially for their yoga class. The city had hinted during study sessions that the new center would have large multipurpose rooms.

“In our yoga class, we would have twice the number of people participating if we had the space, but we don’t,” Weiler said. “We have this little tiny room, and people are fighting to register for the class.”

Howard Hugger, 87, had a different take on the matter. The World War II veteran said he wouldn’t change a thing about the Rodgers.

Having visited Fountain Valley’s new facility, he said he feels out of place and doesn’t like its sterile nature.

“It’s too clean and it’s too formal,” Hugger said. “When you walk in there, you feel like you’ve got to go in there with a suit and a tie on. I feel at home here at the Rodgers Seniors’ Center.”