Irvine is for Seniors, Too

seniors_thumbIrvine is the fastest growing city in Southern California and one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. From July 2011 to July 2012, Irvine grew at a pace five times the Southern California average, its population leaping 4.2% to nearly 230,000.

As you might expect, most of this growth has been spurred by young families attracted to Irvine because of our superior public schools, our vibrant economy, and our numerous sports facilities and recreational opportunities.

But children, youth, and young families are not the complete picture of Irvine.

Irvine is for seniors, too.

Irvine’s strategic plan addresses the needs of all our community members — children, youth, families — and seniors.

In 1978, just a few years after the city was incorporated, Irvine opened its first senior center – the Rancho Senior Center, an 11,000 square foot facility overlooking the beautiful Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course.  Today, the Rancho Senior Center continues to provide programs and services Monday through Friday during regular business hours.  The Rancho Senior Center now also features the Rancho Fitness Center, which provides seniors with a safe and comfortable workout environment. The Rancho Fitness Center is specially designed for adults age 50 and older, and offers a wide selection of cardiovascular and strength training equipment.

Also in 1978, Irvine established the Senior Citizens Council as an advisory body to the City Council. The Senior Citizens Council consists of seven members: five appointed (one by each member of the City Council) and two at-large selected through public recruitment. The Senior Citizens Council advises the City Council on matters pertaining to the special interests and concerns of senior citizens and serves as a sounding board for persons, schools and organizations who have an interest in senior citizens activities and programs.

In 1994, Irvine opened its second senior center — the beautiful Lakeview Senior Center — to address the needs of a growing older adult population.  The 22,000 square foot facility is part of the 22-acre Woodbridge Community Park and offers educational opportunities, recreational activities, meal programs, physical activities, outreach assistance, plus additional resources and referrals.  Lakeview Senior Center is also justifiably proud of its beautiful rose garden and gazebo.  The Rose Garden Cafe, located at the Lakeview Senior Center, serves hot meals that are prepared fresh daily by a professional staff on site and served by the Center’s wonderful volunteers. Lunch at the Rose Garden Cafe is served Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and costs only $4 for persons age 60 and older and $5 for adults age 59 and younger.

In 2001, the Center for Senior Resources at Lakeview Senior Center was renamed the Keen Center for Senior Resources in recognition of Al and Dorothy Keen’s dedication of time and financial support to Irvine’s seniors.  The Keen Center’s experienced, caring, and trained team of staff and volunteers provide information about a wide range of services and programs for Irvine’s older adults, including healthcare, health insurance, social security, safety, finances, alternative living, transportation, home care and care giving. The Keen Center also offers services in Mandarin, Korean, and Farsi by appointment.

This year, Irvine’s Keen Center for Senior Resources was deservedly recognized for its outstanding service to Irvine’s older adults, receiving the prestigious “Creating Community Award of Excellence” from the California Park & Recreation Society.

Together, Lakeview Senior Center and Rancho Senior Center provide a tremendous variety of social, recreational, and wellness programs for seniors, including health, nutrition and outreach services through community collaborations. Both senior centers are also heavily used by the people of Irvine: approximately 45,000 participant visits take place at Rancho Senior Center each year, and 100,000 take place at Lakeview Senior Center.

In February 2009, Irvine’s Community Services Department and Senior Citizens Council began development of a Senior Services Strategic Plan to identify priority services for Irvine’s older adults.  Between February 2009 and January 2010, Irvine engaged in a community planning process for seniors involving five task forces, an advisory committee, and participation of over 600 community members and professionals through various forms of outreach, including town hall meetings and community surveys.  The result is the Irvine Senior Services Strategic Plan 2012-2017, which applies Irvine’s hallmark strategic planning and community participation to create a blueprint for improving the lives of Irvine’s seniors now and into future.

The plan focuses on five areas: education – providing  information and assistance to older adults on topics such as financial, legal, insurance, employment, advocacy and policy issues; housing – supporting accessible, affordable and safe housing for older adults; mental and physical health – supporting programs and services to enhance the cognitive, emotional, and physical health of older adults; recreation and leisure programs – promoting physical and social health in older adults through recreation and leisure opportunities; and transportation – supporting effective local and regional transportation services among public and private sources that provide transportation for older adults.

As Irvine continues to grow larger, and as our residents grow older, Irvine has taken the right steps to plan for and serve the needs of our seniors, who are as diverse as the rest of Irvine’s wonderfully diverse population.

As with other aspects of urban living that set our city apart, Irvine plans for seniors, too.