Backed by a rollicking piano, 50 women belted the words to popular Christmas tunes as they rehearsed for their upcoming musical revue, The Holiday Season.
Next door, a dozen people pulled elastic bands and lifted their feet into the air, laboring through a workout designed to improve stamina and flexibility.
It was another busy morning inside the Five Points Center for Active Adults, where Raleigh residents age 50-and-up can choose from a lineup of activities as varied as items on a Thanksgiving buffet.
With classes like tai chi, line dancing and guided relaxation, the schedule may sound like an afternoon on a cruise ship. But this is the new normal for the active-adult lifestyle, and its reflected in the recent openings of Raleighs first two centers for seniors.
It keeps you from being lonesome at home all day, and just watching television, said Margaret Lindsey, 87, taking a break after her workout. Here you come and meet new friends. And with the exercise, I can move my arms and legs better.
Mission: Stay active
About 6,500 seniors 55 or older take part in programs offered by Raleighs parks and recreation department.
But until now, Raleigh has had no center dedicated solely for use by seniors. Instead, programs were scattered in community centers and senior clubs that meet in their own buildings. Raleigh-based agency Resources for Seniors also runs venues around Wake County.
The two new buildings one in Five Points near the center-city and the other at Millbrook Exchange Park in North Raleigh seek to offer one-stop destinations.
All these activities will give seniors a chance to stay active and socialize, and we know how important that is, said Anne Gordon, for whom the Millbrook Exchange center is named. It can help keep one away from the doctors office, and hopefully, delay moving into assisted living.
Voters approved the complexes, which together cost $7.7 million, as part of an $88.6 million bond issue in 2007.
Whether its with a skate park, aquatic centers or active-adult complexes, the idea is to provide healthful living for all ages, said City Councilman Russ Stephenson.
Planning for the centers began five years ago. Its been a long time coming from first thinking about this, Stephenson said.
The Five Points center opened just in time to host Christmas show rehearsals for the Cardinal Singers, a womens choral ensemble formed more than 30 years ago. The performers will put on 25 holiday music shows this season.
Previously, the ensemble practiced in a carpeted room at Sertoma Arts Center that was not designed for music rehearsals.
Everything about this place is so much better, said second alto Pat Moore, 78, a member since 1994. Were arranged so we can all hear each other.
These days, seniors have higher expectations when it comes to activities, says Elizabeth Beam, conductor of the Cardinal Singers.
There might always be a place for jigsaw puzzles and crosswords, but classes with names such as Getting to Know Your iPad have also entered the equation. The program has to be worth their time. It has to be satisfying and stimulating, and not just time filler, Beam said.
Communities should move away from using the term senior center, said Bill Unger, a certified fitness instructor who teaches at Five Points. The term active adults is more accurate for the scope of activities.
They can do a lot more than they think they can do, he said. Youve just got to get them to believe that.