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Community Life

Centers for Active Senior connections

Seniors, who are relocating to Las Vegas or moving to a new residence in town, usually do so with two things in mind. First, they want to be around active people their own age for a common bond.


Second, it's important that the on-site or nearby recreational facilities meet their needs.


This is important for seniors' personal needs, as well as when others are looking for a suitable residence for their active, aging parents or other loved ones.


Most 55-and-over apartment developments, senior private home subdivisions and senior mobile home parks all have two things in common: swimming pool facilities and a recreation building or activity center where the residents can meet, play cards and board games, enjoy coffee and refreshments, and hold other social event of their choice.


Generally, senior apartments and complexes have a manager or a designated person to help organize special events, parties, BBQ's, sightseeing tours, golf outings, shopping runs and trips to local hotel-casinos for dining, bingo, slots, shows and more.


In addition, many of the services that are not available on the property can be accessed by private shuttle services, such as the ones operated by neighborhood casinos, or by the CAT bus routes called Silver Star, which run on set days and visit many of the senior recreational centers.


For seniors who live in areas that don't have scheduled activities or recreational facilities or for those who want to supplement what their properties offer the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, as well as Clark County and some agencies have established more than two dozen senior centers.


Each senior facility offers a vast range of programs, and some have low-cost meal programs or food assistance, such as free bread pickup days. Most activities are scheduled monthly and posted well in advance. The City and County provide information on their websites and in periodic mailings, and have an office that can provide additional information.


For the City of Las Vegas, call the Department of Leisure Services-Senior Division (702) 229-6457, and for surrounding areas contact the Clark County Parks and Recreation at (702) 455-8200.


The following are some of the senior centers and a partial listing of the types of activities and programs held at each location. For addresses and activity schedules or for other senior-oriented programs, call the numbers listed after each location's description.


Boulder City Senior Center: Serves a continental breakfast and a weekly buffet-style lunch with a full salad bar for those 60 and over for $2.50 on Mondays - Friday. Also offers information on Social Security, Medicare and senior law issues. In addition, there are exercise classes, live entertainment, yoga, bingo and cards. (702) 293-3320)


Cambeiro Senior Center: This center is currently closed during remodeling, and it is becoming an adult day care and health care center. Re-opening is scheduled later this summer. (702) 384-3746
Cambridge Recreation Center: For seniors, there are regularly scheduled activities, including bingo, field trips and guest speakers. Also available are gym facilities. Ask about the AARP 55+ driving safety course. Call to request a newsletter. (702) 455-7169


Centennial Hills Active Adult Center: Activities include exercise and educational classes. (702) 229-1702


Cora Coleman Senior Center: Classes offered include arts and crafts, computers, defensive driving, exercise and dance, and special interest courses. Other activities include swimming, pinochle, billiards, table tennis, health screenings, guest speakers and holiday celebrations. (702) 455-7617


Derfelt Senior Center: Activities and classes include quilting, arts and crafts, knitting, sewing, creative writing, bridge, Mahjong, ballroom and tap dancing, line dancing, yoga, Tai chi, sign language and Spanish. (702) 229-6601


Doolittle Senior Center: Snack bar with sandwiches for $1.75 or less. Offers bingo, bowling, table tennis, crafts, line dancing, sewing, special events and a community garden project. Exercise activities include Latin dancing. Also, there are computer classes for beginners. (702) 229-6125


Dula Gymnasium: Exercise classes, fitness programs and sports activities include basketball, a walking group, weight loss, table and paddle tennis, and games include bridge and pinochle. Dance instruction in tap. Computer lab training. (702) 229-6307


East Las Vegas Community and Senior Center: The center offers a variety of dance classes, music and fitness classes, computer lab, pottery studio, weaving looms and other fun lessons. (702) 229-1515


Goldberg Senior Center: The center offers social services assistance through Las Vegas Senior Lifeline a program of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. Special needs assistance with transportation and nutrition.Other advisory assistance with homemaking and medical care may be available. The center has many nondenominational services for people age 60 and over. (702) 933-1191


Henderson Senior Center: (Relocation and renaming to Heritage Park Senior Facility is scheduled for this summer.) Lunch is available Monday - Friday. Lunch is $1.50 for 60 years and older; all others $3.00. Low-cost Sat. brunch and Sun. lunch. Programs and activities include arts and crafts, billiards, bingo, knitting and crocheting, exercise classes, computer classes, writing workshops, bus trips, line dancing and card games. (702) 267-4150


Las Vegas Senior Center: Classes and activities include arts and crafts, square dancing, pinochle, health-check sessions, special events and workshops. Located near downtown, many senior clubs, organizations and discussion groups meet here. (702) 229-6454


Lieburn Senior Center: The center offers aerobics, games, computer classes, yoga, guitar lessons and exercise classes. (702) 229-1600


North Las Vegas Recreation Center: Offers a gymnasium, walking groups, arts and crafts, bridge, dancing, computer sessions, classes and low-cost meal services. (702) 633-1600


Paradise Community Center: Senior activities include movie days, bingo, and field trips and physical exercise. (702) 455-7513

Parkdale Community Center: One of the oldest senior centers in Clark County, the center houses a computer lab, arts and crafts area, and a multipurpose room. Arts and crafts, games and exercise instruction. Scheduled field trips and guest speakers. (702) 455-8502


Veterans Memorial Leisure Services Center: A multi-generational, full-service recreational center, it offers paddle tennis, a walking club, aerobics and fitness classes, and basketball. (702) 229-1100


Walnut Recreation Center: The center has programs for 50 and older. Activities include community excursions, guest speakers, cards and games, arts and crafts, projects and classes, special events, wellness checks, and other activities. (702) 455-8402


West Flamingo Senior Center: Programs for those 50 and over include acting classes, computer classes, knitting and crocheting, exercise classes, , yoga, watercolor, dance classes, ping pong, card games, field trips and monthly special events. (702) 455-7742


Whitney Senior Center: A separate building for senior programs located next to the family recreation center. Classes and activities include computer, senior exercise, defensive driving, board and card games, piano, guest speakers and holiday celebrations. On select days, there is free food assistance and information. (702) 455-7560


Winchester Cultural Center: Offers lectures, social activities, field trips, card games, entertainers, movies, Mahjong, Tai chi and yoga. Enjoy the art gallery and walking path. Music and theatrical performances of all varieties are regularly scheduled, including jazz, bands, vocalists and more. (702) 455-7340

The Magical Forest

While doing the research for this article, pride was the word that kept coming to mind. Pride in the voice of Holly Spoor, Resource Development Director for Opportunity Village, as she talked about her work. Pride displayed in the stories of Opportunity Village's clients, who found opportunities to shine in ways they and their families never dreamed possible. Pride and a feeling of accomplishment gained by volunteers, supporters, and contributors to Opportunity Village and its programs.

Opportunity Village is a well-known name in Las Vegas. Begun in 1954 by a small group of families seeking to improve the lives of their intellectually-disabled family members, today it serves more than 800 people daily, 3000 people annually. Opportunity Village offers vocational training, community job placement, social opportunities, and group advocacy to its clients. Their clients, in turn, gain a sense of accomplishment, a social network, and pride in themselves. Says Spoor, "It's so good for the whole family. It gives the parents a chance to go to work. It gives their disabled son or daughter a chance to learn skills and socialize. They then all have something to talk about at the dinner table."

There are 3 employment training center campuses and one thrift store operated by Opportunity Village in Southern Nevada. Here, hundreds of disabled adults are trained under supervision and placed in local community jobs where it is thought they would best succeed.

Opportunity Village contracts with local and national businesses for jobs such as light assembly work, complex electrical and mechanical assembly, document shredding, and shrink wrapping. It trains some clients to hold jobs in the community. Opportunity Village saves money through competitive pricing for its services, and helps employ people who would otherwise be unemployable.

Some of Las Vegas' most popular events are hosted by Opportunity Village, including the annual Magical Forest. From the Saturday before Thanksgiving through January 2nd, the Magical Forest gives Las Vegans a place to experience the magic of Christmas. They even host a special New Year's Eve celebration. These events have become an annual tradition for many.

Now in its 18th season, the Magical Forest was first begun in 1992 as a thank-you to the community. Spoor says the original consisted of only 3 decorated trees and a wishing well, yet people came. Now a huge display of hundreds of decorated and lit trees, a train ride, food, games, crafts, and visits with Santa, it is the single largest fundraiser for Opportunity Village.

Ninety-four percent of the Magical Forest is funded by donations. All of the proceeds go to Opportunity Village's PRIDE Program (People's Rights to Independence, Dignity, and Equality).

The Magical Forest is Spoor's baby, and she is full of excitement about this year's event. Close to 150,000 people attended last year. The forest changes every year, as different groups pay $300 to sponsor and decorate the trees. Many new features are added yearly. New in 2008 included a newly-designed area for Photos with Santa and a Storytime Cabin, which Spoor says was very successful. New for 2009 will be Santa's Speedway, which will consist of pedal-car races for 3 to 7 year olds.

You'll be drawn to the forest of lights when you first arrive. It is indeed magical - a glowing respite that puts you in the Christmas spirit immediately and brings a smile to your face. Follow the path as it meanders past the brightly lit trees. You may meet friends and neighbors along the way. Hop on the train and get a drive-by view of the forest - definitely a favorite with kids.

Many of Las Vegas' well-known celebrities involve themselves with the Magical Forest. Celine Dion, when she lived in town, sponsored a display and visited the Forest. Andre Agassi comes early every year and takes his family Christmas photo with Santa. Ron Lucas and Tony Orlando have been involved. Danny Gans used to do benefit shows every year to help support the Forest. Mayor Oscar Goodman always attends.

The Magical Forest runs for 40 to 50 nights a year, and requires 70 to 90 volunteers each night. Las Vegans are generous with their time; statistics show that one in four persons volunteers in some way. The contact person for volunteering for the Magical Forest is Debbie Smith; call (702) 880-4081. Groups can volunteer, as can individuals. There are many varieties of volunteer opportunities to fit anyone's needs for sitting or standing, inside or outside. Anyone can find a spot, says Spoor. Except for the train engineers, who must be certified, no training is required, only a happy spirit. You must be 18 or older, dress warmly, and wear comfy shoes. Good customer service is, of course, expected.

Volunteers may find themselves manning the food booths, helping with photos with Santa, directing traffic at the train crossings, wearing costumes and just wandering around spreading good cheer, or helping load and unload the train. A train ride through the forest is not to be missed, for kids and adults alike.

"Our volunteers are the lifeblood of this event. It wouldn't be possible without them," says Spoor. "We have many longtime volunteers who come and help on multiple nights every year. The suggestions they give us for improvements or new attractions are always valued, because they are our eyes and ears."

Come visit the Magical Forest and start a holiday tradition for your family.