Collegedale is revving up its new era of recreational programming by addressing a desire for more senior-centric activities.
On Friday, Jan. 12, the city's revamped Parks and Recreation Department is hosting the first of its new series of weekly social gatherings for residents age 55 and up.
The two-hour program, called "Senior Stretch," will be held every Friday from 9-11 a.m. in the West Community Room at Collegedale City Hall.
The goal of the program is to help attendees stretch both their bodies and their minds through physical, social and educational activities, said Parks and Recreation Director Traci Bennett-Hobek.
Right now, she continued, there is no senior programming in the area — though it's something visitors at the Collegedale Public Library often ask about, added library Director Joanne Stanfield.
In order to find activities geared toward their demographic, older residents must drive to the Eastgate Senior Center or the North River Civic Center, both of which are about 20 minutes away.
"People's daughters and sons have expressed interest in parents not driving to Hixson and Eastgate," Bennett-Hobek said. "That's not a bad thing; they just feel like there should be something closer by."
The first meeting of Senior Stretch will kick off with introduction activities and implement some form of exercise, but a portion of the session will be focused on gathering input from attendees about what kinds of activities they'd like to see in future meetings.
Moving forward, Bennett-Hobek hopes to partner with organizations like the Area Agency on Aging and Disability to create workshops and programming, and already has her eye on a six-week group education workshop by the Tennessee Department of Health called "Living Well with Chronic Conditions," which she plans to offer in late winter or early spring.
"We have future dreams. We have goals. We have visions," Bennett-Hobek said, adding, "We start small."
Establishing senior programming is only one of the initiatives Bennett-Hobek has been tackling since she was appointed to her newly revised position in November.
Before her appointment, the department was geared primarily toward facility maintenance. The city's former parks and recreation director, Eric Sines, also oversaw the Public Works Department.
Now that Bennett-Hobek has filled the position and the maintenance duties have been divvied up between the two departments, she is free to focus on expanding recreational offerings for residents.
While she intends to create new programs and activities, Bennett-Hobek said a large part of her job moving forward will be connecting locals with the recreational opportunities that already exist in the immediate area, such as the bike and kayak programs Outdoor Chattanooga hosts at locations like Southern Adventist University.
"This whole area is just a diverse opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts," she said. "The challenge is communicating everything to the public, making sure that people are aware of the opportunities around them."
With Phase 1 construction of The Commons now complete, Bennett-Hobek plans to partner with the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation on events for the farmers market that will be situated at the multi-use center come spring.
Other potential partnerships include those forged with local schools and students. Bennett-Hobek hopes to enlist a student from SAU as an intern, and she has visited schools like Ooltewah High and Collegedale Academy to ask them what they'd like to see, inform them of volunteer opportunities with the department, and discover what talents they might want to share.
"I've already got one group that's interested in doing a Pokémon Go event," she said, referring to the location-based mobile game that encourages players to scour the real world in search of digital creatures they can catch on their smartphones. "So ideas are coming in."
Bennett-Hobek encourages area residents with ideas to reach out to her. She can be contacted at 468-1971 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Myron Madden at email@example.com