KEN EDWARDS CENTER — As Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” played in the background, a pair of seniors danced Monday while others chatted in the dining hall of the Ken Edwards Center, home to Santa Monica’s new center for the elderly, which its members have dubbed Club 1527.
Apparently the word “senior” is a turn off.
The song provided the perfect backdrop to the club’s opening-day bash as many in the room seemed unable to forget the Pacific Ocean view they were forced to leave behind when the City Council in April of last year voted to move the senior center in Palisades Park to the Ken Edwards Center on Fourth Street, where the nonprofit WISE & Healthy Aging serves lunches, offers meditation and writing classes, and other services for seniors.
At the time of the move, some of Santa Monica’s elders cried foul. Losing the view was, and remains, their main complaint. However, they are coming around to their new space, which features fresh paint, more lighting and a retractable glass wall that lets in sunshine and provides a view of a bustling Fourth Street and Santa Monica Place.
“It’s bright and clean,” Brentwood resident Shirlee Kessler said of Club 1527, where she takes Qigong classes, which help improve balance, strength and flexibility. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t have that ocean view.”
City officials and those with WISE, while acknowledging that change can be difficult for some, insist the move to the Ken Edwards Center is better for seniors because it consolidates most services in one place, is served by several bus lanes and the Dial-a-Ride transit service, and provides some underground parking for guests, whereas the center in Palisades Park had only street parking and not as much room to accommodate all the various classes that are offered.
The center in Palisades Park — now dubbed 1450 Ocean — will be converted to a community center for adults of all ages, meaning seniors will still be able to enroll in classes and get their ocean view. Programming for the space is still being finalized but there are plans to offer photography classes as well as chair yoga. For more information visit www.facebook.com/1450Ocean
“It’s really the best of two worlds,” Grace Cheng Braun, president and CEO of WISE & Healthy Aging, tells her clients. “It’s not a take away. They are actually getting more.”
Volunteer writing coach Peggy Adams misses the view too, but believes the move is for the better.
“This place is cleaner, safer, more organized and there’s more room,” Adams said. “It’s just more pleasant and convenient, I think. And if you want to see the ocean, we’re only a couple of blocks away so most people can still get out there.”
To join Club 1527, Santa Monica residents age 50 or older need only pay $15 a year. Non-residents pay $20. Those residents who have a financial hardship can qualify for a scholarship and pay nothing. Taxpayers subsidize the majority of the cost to provide services. So far more than 400 members have signed up, Cheng Braun said.
Santa Monica provides an estimated $16.2 million in services to seniors aged 65 and over, excluding police department costs, according to a city staff report released last year.