PIEDMONT — Older people in the city can sign up for day trips, a book group, or yoga. They can also play pickleball seven days a week by simply showing up on the courts, without reservation. However, some Piedmont seniors, like Rick Schiller, 74, say the recreation department’s programming is inadequate and they want to see more.
“Piedmont has an aging population. I believe our median age is about 10 years older than Alameda County. Senior programming in Piedmont is sorely lacking,” Schiller said. “There is no senior center, there is no time at 801 Magnolia (Avenue) or the recreation building for the elderly to meet for cards, tea, chess, music. Piedmont is very child-centric. I think the city believes that all senior citizens are well off and sail to various exotic vacation spots.
According to 2020 U.S. Census data, people age 65 or older make up 20.8% of Piedmont’s population of 11,270; children under 5 represent 4.8%; and young people aged 5 to 18 represent 26.4%. People between the ages of 18 and 65 make up the remaining 48%.
The building at 801 Magnolia Ave. is home to the Piedmont Center for the Arts and is used by the city for various occasional events. Chelle Putzer, the town’s director of recreation, agrees that the town should provide more activities for its seniors and is working on it.
“PRD (Piedmont’s recreation department) will work to create more classes, get-togethers and social groups for older people,” Putzer said this week.
Sara Lillevand, Piedmont city administrator and former director of recreation, also agrees with Putzer and Schiller.
“Indeed, since 2015, we have been working to identify opportunities to better serve our seniors. Our biggest constraint when I was director of recreation was the lack of facilities. Adding the city’s daytime hours to 801 Magnolia should help open up time and space for older programs,” Lillevand said.
The Piedmont Seniors Group is actively seeking new members for fun and informal socializing. It is not necessary to be a resident of Piedmont to join. Meetings are held the fourth Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon at the Piedmont Community Hall.
A recent excursion to Santa Rosa held on June 2 took in the Charles M. Schultz Museum and Research Center and the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. A Collette Tours slideshow on extended travel opportunities will take place on June 22, and a free group Walk Wednesday has 122 seniors registered.
“We have a robust pickleball program that has a large number of players over the age of 50 participating in the free-entry program,” Putzer said. “One of our goals will be to expand senior programming at the 801 Magnolia Space Arts Center.”
The city recently entered into a new lease with the arts center in which certain time slots would be available for uses other than arts and music events. Putzer said some programs for seniors that the recreation department had previously designed had received little interest. “Drama Games for Seniors” and “Write Your Personal Story” have been canceled due to low registration. Piedmont also offers limited adult school classes open to adults and seniors, she said.
“The (separate) adult school coordinates to make sure we don’t offer the same classes or compete with each other,” Putzer said. “The goal is to have a variety of offers for adults in Piedmont.”
Former Mayor John Chiang notes that there are also programs for seniors through the Piedmont Community Church and publicly available exercise classes at Veterans Hall.
“I saw various programs or topics of interest in the Moonlighter (newsletter), some for seniors,” Chiang said. “Given that we have an aging population in Piedmont, it could be useful to have wellness programs offered by health professionals in town, such as exercises for the elderly, health topics, preventing falls and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. There could be travel ideas and suggestions for other seniors, gardening and resources for seniors.
Putzer said some of the current senior programs are free, and fees for other courses or programs are set only to cover the costs of offering the program.
“The programs are set up to be self-sufficient,” she said. “The Piedmont Seniors Group pays an annual fee to participate, which helps cover the part-time senior coordinator, Janet Epstein. They offer local trips, and the fees for these cover the cost of the trip, admissions, driver, and car rental. The higher classes that are taught by an entrepreneur are set up to be recovered. The Monday Reading Group and the Wednesday Walk are free and led by volunteers.
Says Schiller, “The city now has control of 801 Magnolia, although the artistic group has substantial priority. Hours and programs could be started there for some senior-only programs. Much more can be done, and what has been initiated has (largely) been initiated by residents.
To view the Piedmont Recreation Department’s summer activities brochure, visit bayareane.ws/PRDsummer online. For more information, call Janet Epstein of the Recreation Department at 510-420-3070.
“We would love to get feedback from our seniors community on the types of programs they would like to participate in,” Putzer said.
Linda Davis is a longtime correspondent in Piedmont. Reach her with topical advice or feedback at [email protected]