Amarillo’s Center Without Walls initiative, a program designed to enhance programming and services while encouraging engagement for the just under 64,000 adults within the 50 and over population here, is jelling as proposed.
Officials said the model based upon Gateway Seniors Without Walls that serves the Bangor, Maine, area, is described as one that maximizes resources and community partnerships while leveraging technology, including online communities and social media. The overarching goal is to connect and engage an active adult population with those existing communities, services and programs.
“Center Without Walls, as we perceived it, has been funded through the city’s 2018-19 budget,” Amarillo Senior Services Coordinator Linda Pitner said, noting just over $112,000 has been earmarked for the project. “The implementation of Center Without Walls will begin on Oct. 1. It’s going to take some time to put things in place, but I’ve gathered a lot of information - listing websites, their addresses, phone numbers and those types of things for services. We’re ready to implement that into the database. We are also working on a marketing plan."
Pitner said in 2030, every Baby Boomer will be age 65 or older while in 2035 there will be more people in this country over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. Consideration of the concept was fostered two years ago via a Memorandum of Understanding between the City, the Amarillo Area Foundation, Baptist Community Services and the Bivins Foundation, officials said. The Center Without Walls dynamic has three elements:
An online community - a website and social media
“It has a calendar that has links to information, registration, phone numbers and programs or services that currently exist in the community," Pitner said, noting it would be housed on the City's website.
Programs and services
"They are existing programs and services, for example, the services that already exist at the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association or a painting class at Amarillo College," said Pitner. "It's also existing city programs, such as water aerobics at the Warford Center or a book club at the public library."
Communications and awareness
"This is would entail informing the community of a Center Without Walls," Pitner said. "If the community doesn't know it's here, it can't be successful in helping anyone meet the needs. They have to be able to find it. We need an ongoing branding and public awareness campaign, as well as a launch opportunity campaign."
City Manager Jared Miller said the concept would serve as a springboard for additional concentrated development.
“Senior Services is something we’re going to have to grow into and we’re going to start with where we can, with projects like Centers Without Walls,” he said. “We’re going to work toward the facility-like things, which will be more challenging from a financial standpoint to get to. We do things for kids and provide services for families, but we are deficient where we want to be with regard to providing services for our seniors. This serves as a great starting point for doing so.”