MORRISVILLE — More than a dozen women with graying hair closed their eyes and breathed in and out.
An instructor’s voice broke the silence, asking students to reach out to the elements of earth, fire and water.
This recent yoga class – held on a racquetball court at the Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center – might highlight the need in this town for a senior center.
Morrisville’s older residents aren’t sitting at home all day. But there’s no dedicated space for them to get together and be active.
The Cedar Fork Community Center usually hosts the yoga class, but summer camps forced the program to temporarily relocate.
“We’re always kicked out,” said Nina Weiland, 74, of Morrisville. “We just get shuffled around.”
Morrisville spends less than $4,000 a year on programs for seniors. Despite the shoestring budget, the town offers a variety of classes that attract strong attendance.
James Worsdale, the town’s cultural programs specialist, said there’s a need for more programs because more seniors, retirees and grandparents are moving to town.
Between 2000 and 2010, Morrisville’s 55-and-older population grew from 465 to 2,087, according to the U.S. Census.
Morrisville has considered building a senior center. Renovations also are planned for the Morrisville Aquatics and Fitness Center; the upgrade could free up some space for classes.
“Overall, our population is aging,” Worsdale said. “We have seniors who are new to the area and are looking for an affordable way to meet new people.”
Morrisville isn’t the only western Wake County town that’s trying to keep up with the demands of older residents.
Apex might convert a historic home into a senior center. The Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce formed a committee to gauge interest in a senior center.
Fun and low-cost
Most of Morrisville’s activities for seniors are free or cost less than $3.
The town spends about $2,500 a year on food and $1,100 on materials for programs, Worsdale said. That doesn’t include organized trips out of town, which participants pay to attend.
Last year, the town partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to launch a free tai chi class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The classes were so popular that the town started offering the class on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, said Kendal Smith, supervisor for the aquatics and fitness center.
The Arthritis Foundation also hosts a free low-impact exercise program for seniors two days a week.
Weiland said she and her yoga group would like the town to offer yoga more than once a week on Mondays.
“We have found results from this – the mediation, the stretching,” she said. “When we walk out of here we feel like we have a workout. We look forward to Monday.”
Liane Corcione, 71, of Cary has participated in the yoga class since it started in January.
“We’re energized after this,” she said.
Yoga instructor Shyama Nair volunteers to teach the class, which typically has 15 to 20 students. She said she’s trying to recruit other instructors to volunteer their time too.
Along with exercise programs, the town offers free games every Wednesday and Friday at the community center and bingo on the first and third Thursday of the month.
Ronnie Dickson, a member of the town’s senior advisory committee, said he’s noticed the level of interest pick up.
“We do bingo twice a month. We started with seven people and now there are about 20 to 25 twice a month,” Dickson said.
This year, Morrisville is replacing the Senior Casino Night with a Senior Style BBQ and Bingo event on Saturday. Tickets are almost sold out, Worsdale said.
Weiland said the organized activities are a way for seniors to be social.
“I’ve been here for 12 years and I can see the growth,” she said. “It seems like there’s more seniors. And they look forward to these things to get out of the house and exercise, meet people and socialize.”