Membership drive underway, more offerings for seniors at Ed Brown Center in Rancho Bernardo

The Ed Brown Center for Active Adults is increasing its offerings as its annual membership ramps up.

When the center reopened last July after a 15-month closure due to the pandemic, the board announced that a new membership calendar would take effect starting in January. All memberships are now from January 1st to December 1st instead of based on the date the member joins.

Three weeks later, Executive Director Lynn Wolsey said the center at Rancho Bernardo Community Park is receiving a good response to its membership drive. As of January 21, at least 250 members had signed up, with more requests coming in every day.

Members range from 50 to 90 years old, with an average age of 70. Many live in Rancho Bernardo, but Wolsey said she has noticed that several newcomers are Poway residents like her. Additionally, many live at 4S Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, Escondido, and Scripps Ranch. There are even some from Miramar and Valley Center.

There could be several reasons, he said. One is that people prefer the Ed Brown Center and its offerings over other senior-oriented facilities. Another is that some senior centers have yet to reopen.

The center offers a wide variety of classes, from watercolor and drawing to tap dancing, fitness, yoga, chair yoga, pilates, and tai chi. Rock Steady Boxing is aimed at people with Parkinson’s disease, Wolsey said. There are card games, a sewing club, and a game readers’ theater group. There are plans to start a book club.

The exercise classes were the draw for Escondido resident Iris Sussman, who joined about three years ago. Sussman said she and a friend from Rancho Peñasquitos were looking into fitness options.

“The people are very friendly and the instructors are great,” said Sussman.

Last October, Sussman broke his hip and his recovery included two weeks in a rehabilitation center. She said many exercises in rehab were the ones she did in classes at the center, and her therapists said she was “surprisingly strong.” She attributes this to the fitness classes she was taking prior to her injury.

“I got better faster,” Sussman said.

She has resumed arthritis and balance, chair yoga, and will soon join the fitness class that offers a mix of aerobics, stretching, and light weights.

Jill Leff of Rancho Bernardo said a neighbor encouraged her to join 15 years ago.

“I had a neighbor who was just a ball of fire,” Leff said. “She did everything. I’m kind of a reluctant participant. But she kept telling her to come down with me. So I did…and have been going ever since.

“It’s a wonderful place and the classes are great,” the 78-year-old said. “I have learned a lot. People in their 90s and 80s are very inspiring and good for all of us who aren’t sure about old age.”

In addition to gym classes, Leff is in the sewing club and has volunteered at the front desk for about seven years.

While some seniors have been reluctant to return, Leff said attendance is growing and he hopes that trend will continue.

“I was looking forward to going back to classes and seeing more people,” she said.

The center is adding classes step by step, Wolsey said.

The tea dances were due to resume this month, but are now on hold until at least mid-February.

“We are waiting for the (Omicron) spike to come down and the mask mandate to be lifted,” Wolsey said.

Bridge games recently resumed at 1 pm on Fridays. As many as 16 players have come so far, but there’s room for several dozen, Wolsey said. Players do not need to be members, but must RSVP so volunteers know how many tables to set up and if games need to be moved from the dining room to the auditorium.

Offering a mix of free activities and paid classes, with discounts for members, is important to attract seniors to the center, especially after being isolated for so long, Wolsey said.

“We need to get people socially engaged again,” he said. “They are suffering from different symptoms. Some are depressed and anxious. People need people.”

A hot lunch program is offered on weekdays for seniors 60 and older for a suggested donation of $4. RSVPs are required one day in advance at 858-637-3230.

“It’s very tasty and nutritious, a lot of food,” Wolsey said of the midday lunches.

The center requires social distancing and masks, Wolsey said, adding that masks are available at the front desk for those who forget theirs.

The center is also cleaned four times a week and nearly all members are fully vaccinated and boosted, he said.

“We are doing everything we can to keep ourselves safe,” Wolsey said.

“Now we can reconnect and have activities that can keep them healthy,” he added.

As an example, he said the arthritis/balance class is popular. On Friday, the center offered a free balance screening and of the 13 seniors tested, nearly all passed with flying colors, placing in the 90th percentile for their ages, according to Wolsey. She said most of those tested were in their 80s and 90s.

“It makes me feel like we’re doing our job,” Wolsey said. “Our goal is for them to maintain their independence and live a healthy life for as long as possible.”

One of the things older adults learn in balance class is how to land during a fall.

“If they learn how to fall properly, they’re less likely to break their hip … so they’ll be healthier and maintain their independence,” Wolsey said.

An annual membership is $80. The fee will be prorated quarterly for those who join later in the year, Wolsey said.

In addition to receiving the center’s monthly newsletter and attending free events such as the New Year’s party, members receive a discount on paid classes. Instructors typically pay $5 to $10 per class, while nonmembers pay $7 to $15 per class, Wolsey said.

The Ed Brown Center for Active Adults is at 18402 W. Bernardo Drive in Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Their reception hours are 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Thursday and 9 am to 1 pm on Friday. The activity schedule and lunch menu are posted on EdBrownCenter.org. If you have questions, call 858-487-9324.

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