National Senior Center Week is celebrated each year in September. One of the more unique centers across the state of Minnesota is the Fergus Falls Senior Center. It was the first nationally accredited center in the state, receiving its accreditation in 2002, and continues to be only one of a few accredited senior centers in the state. In 2005, the center also won the Minnesota Non-Profit Excellence Award. Kathy Sporre, the center’s director, has received over $300,000 in grant funding for the center. In 2006 she was appointed to serve on the New Model of Senior Centers Taskforce. This included a three-year research project and yearly trips to Washington DC to advocate for senior centers. Due in part to Sporre’s leadership, the center has flourished. It has been estimated two out of every 10 Otter Tail County residents are older than 65 and the senior program is preparing to meet the needs of its future members.  In 2009, the center had a total of 556 members, which was a 13 percent increase over the previous year. More increases are on the horizon.
A tour through the senior center gives you an idea of why they were selected for accreditation. . .  The lower level of the building houses 21 pieces of state-of-the-art exercise equipment. Purchased in 2008, the equipment was funded by the senior center activity fund, the Frank Veden Charitable Trust and the Mardag Foundation. The NuStep machine was so popular, a successful $3,000 grant to the Hartz Foundation in 2009, provided funding to purchase a second one. When seniors want to take a break from their physical workout routine, they can wander over to the southern part of the lower level and browse through their large library of donated books and magazines. Volunteers keep the library neat and user friendly for its patrons. Also located on the lower level are a snooker table and a pool table. Competition  gets wild as the games progress. Some members confess they haven’t played since their high school days. Others confess they “sometimes make up their own rules as they go along.” If quilting is your interest, a section of the area near the billiard tables is set up with several sewing machines and storage cabinets. The finished product can be seen displayed in their store front window, ready to be sold. The proceeds are recycled into the seniors’ activity fund. Sometimes the quilters are interrupted by the sound of a gavel, marking the start of a board meeting nearby. The board room is shared by the Wii fitness group, watercolor classes and individual fitness classes. To journey to the main level, handicap individuals have access to an enclosed electronic lift. The senior center kitchen is located on the main floor.  Over 35,000 meals were prepared there in 2009. Presently, the kitchen serves 40-50 seniors at the center daily and more when special programs are held. The kitchen also prepares meals for various senior apartment complexes and the meals on wheels program. A 50 inch flat screen television is used twice a month for movies. Movie goers relax on a comfortable couch and overstuffed easy chairs. The center has a computer room available (two computers available to all members for e-mailing and research on the internet).  A few months ago, the center went wireless, so all laptops can now be accessed anywhere in the building. Kim Shea, Office Assistant, is always ready to help any senior lost in the technology age. She is also certified in Older Adult Fitness and developed a fitness program for the center through a grant from the Lake Region Healthcare Foundation. Tucked away in a corner of the main floor is a small office type room with a very special computer. It is the Dakim Brain Fitness computer. This recent purchase from a grant by the Mardag Foundation is designed to help ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Daily use of the 20 minute challenging games will help deter brain loss by 60%. It focuses on six cognitive domains including long and short term memory, language, computation, visuospatial orientation and critical thinking. The Fergus Falls center was the second center in the state to purchase this type of exercise machine. For several years, the local seniors have taken part in an Adopt-A-Class program with a third grade classroom. Every month, the two generations intermingle and work on various projects, such as Bingo and holiday crafts. The center is also active in the community and keeping its members up to date on various issues such as health, legal matters, social and cultural activities, tax help, etc. The Fergus Falls Senior is located at 115 West Lincoln Avenue.