Elders Activity Center turning 10 years old on Nov. 1
By Danielle Frost
Nov. 1, 2018, marks exactly 10 years since the Elders Activity Center held an open house celebration for the long-awaited facility.
Tribal Elder Claudia Leno attended and remembers thinking how beautiful the new building was, with high ceilings, plenty of windows and a view of Spirit Mountain.
Ten years later, Leno is still a faithful visitor at the center. She visits frequently to eat lunch and socialize, and attends an exercise class every Tuesday and Thursday, which involves walking in place for increasing amounts of time.
“It’s tough, but good because everyone can go at their own pace,” Leno, 74, says. “When we get tired, we can take a break. I’m a diabetic and I like to cheat a lot, so I really need to stay in shape.”
Leno says that the staff and Elders Committee do a good job of offering activities, but that many Elders aren’t taking advantage of those.
“As far as the food goes, it’s pretty good,” she says. “I love the pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy. ... I just wish our Elders would participate more in other activities. Most people eat lunch, leave and go home to take a nap.”
Leno says that Nutrition Program Manager Kristy Criss-Lawson has done a great job offering increased activities and adding to the lunch menu.
“If she doesn’t know what people want, she can’t do anything about it,” Leno says.
Laura Lund, 73, has been visiting the center for 18 years, before it opened in its current location and was housed in another building on the Tribal campus.
“I used to really enjoy the trips, but I can’t get around to a lot of those activities anymore,” Lund says. “I liked all of the different places we went and the casinos.”
Although she has slowed down a bit as she’s aged, Lund says she still makes an effort to visit the Elders Activity Center every day it is open for lunch.
“We get to yell at everyone that way,” she jokes. “And as for the food, well as long as it is edible, I will eat it.”
When the center first opened its doors, Lund recalls that it was “bright, nice and new.”
“I am really hoping people will utilize it more,” she says. “There are activities for learning and exercise classes, but people tend to vegetate after lunch.”
Lund says she also enjoys the camaraderie of familiar faces who show up at the center.
“Getting to know people is good and it’s always sad when you lose them,” she says.
Criss-Lawson has worked for the Tribe since 2005. She recalls that the Elders Activity Center had been in the works for a long time before building began, and said there was a planning committee back in her college days in 2000.
“At one point, there was going to be a second story on this building,” she says. “Ultimately, the second story was removed from the plan, but the building was designed so it could still be added in the future.”
The goal for the Elders Activity Center was to give Grand Ronde’s older population a building of their own for crafts, meals, holiday events and as a general gathering place.
Criss-Lawson sat in on many of the planning meetings. As the center evolved, so did her role. First, she served as food services coordinator, then supervisor and then Nutrition Program manager.
“It was a bit overwhelming planning for the EAC, but when the final structure was done it was beautiful, a place where I get to serve my Elders. I still find it breathtaking, especially the view of Spirit Mountain,” she says.
Criss-Lawson says much of the decor throughout the Elders Activity Center, such as the quilts, fish mobile and old photos, came from the Tribe’s museum Chachalu and the Community Center.
There also are couches and comfortable chairs scattered throughout, along with televisions, a craft room, dining hall, kitchen and pool table.
The center holds annual events such as the Christmas and Valentine’s Day parties, Elder Honor Day breakfast and a Halloween party every other year.
Bingo is held the second and fourth Saturday of each month and movies are shown every Wednesday. Craft and exercise days are on Tuesday and Thursday. The center also offers a site for funeral services for Elders and their spouses.
Meals are served free to all Elders and spouses from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, unless otherwise noted. Food is $6 for everyone else and must be ordered ahead by calling 503-879-4625. The center is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We’ve always had the goal to be open and for the community,” Criss-Lawson says. “We are trying to get more people in here because we have heard that some don’t feel welcome, and we want them out of their houses and socializing.”
Currently, the center is averaging 120 meals served per day.
Criss-Lawson says the biggest issue that employees face is keeping a steady schedule of events.
“We need to do more event planning,” she says. “The more we offer (regular) activities, the more people will come here. There is always room to improve.”
For more information, contact the Elders Activity Center at 503-879-2233.