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Editor's column

Joe from the Block

October 12, 2011 - Joe St. Henry

Review Editor

My parents retired and moved to Gaylord several years ago. They sold their home in Lake Orion at just the right time before the market took a dive. The allure of their family and friends back home, however, has been too strong for too long and they now want to move back.

If they do return to Lake Orion, I hope they take full advantage of the amenities here for seniors including those to be offered at the new Orion Center. Yes, it appears most of the activities there will be geared toward this growing group of citizens in our community, at least for a while. That is okay with me. Look around town Lake Orion is growing older.

People are living longer. Many are still working because their retirement nest eggs have taken a hit or disappeared. They cannot easily sell their homes even if they want to downsize. So, many folks are deciding to stay put. Believe it or not, some actually like living here. There are even a few moving to the area for the first time to be closer to their families.

What is wrong with having a place they can call their own, figuratively speaking? The existing senior center is woefully too small to accommodate the rapidly growing numbers of seniors and their interests. For that matter, many of my parents' friends who still live here on the other side of town do not know such a facility even exists in the village. I cannot think of a better place to locate such a center than off of Joslyn Road, where it is visible and easily accessible to more people.

As for how the Orion Center has been paid for, if it is true the majority of construction has been covered by years of host-fees paid by Eagle Valley, I am glad these funds are being put to good use in a way that will benefit our community for a long time, rather than piddled away. Besides, if we can build beautiful schools, community parks, athletic fields, bike trails and amphitheaters across the township, we should be able to cater to some the needs of older generations, too, no excuses.

Those complaining that the new center does not have a pool or similar features like other local senior centers need to be reminded that there are stellar pool facilities at our high school and nearby health clubs, all of which have partnered with the center. I have also heard folks complain about the annual membership fee ($20 single/$35 couple) and other charges. Personally, I think they are reasonable. Folks will be charged $5 per month to use the dedicated exercise room for seniors and those with special needs. That equates to a value meal at a fast-food restaurant, a few coffees or a couple beers. Skip them and go to the gym. Furthermore, the money raised by people using the Orion Center will help to keep it operating and self-sustainable.

Was the Orion Center built at the wrong time, given our economy? I guess you could argue that. But I bet it may cost more to construct such a facility in boom times when contractors have more work. I wonder if we could really wait any longer, given our aging population? Do we want to lose our parents, neighbors and friends to other communities near and far that do offer such amenities to active, engaged adults?

Still others question if the Orion Center can truly cater to both seniors and younger citizens in our community. They have concerns about older people being comfortable in such a setting. I think we are not giving either group enough credit. Last time I checked, many older folks like hanging around younger ones it makes many of them feel fresh. They simply want to be treated with respect. Maybe the more time we spend together, the more we will all realize how much we have in common, no matter what our ages. This starts with our affection for this community, where progressive, forward-thinking ideas like the Orion Center are growing and needed to continue to attract people and keep Lake Orion a viable place to live, as we all grow older.

I have a few years yet before reaching the official age of a senior. My wife and I also do not know where we may retire someday. If we are here, however, I do plan on tapping into the offerings of the Orion Center to enhance my quality of life. When it opens later this year, I will be proud of it.

You will be, too.

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