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One of the greatest assets of any community is its senior citizen population. This is where all the real historical knowledge of the community resides.

What you read in newspapers, hear on radio or see on television is merely a collection of selected bytes of past history or current events, and it’s important to do all we can to preserve this valuable resource.

Enter senior centers. While we’ve all heard or seen them as we drive by or have spoken to someone who’s a member, most of us have no idea what they do to preserve the social life of the community. We often visualize them as a collection of big, empty rooms where old folks gather to play cards, do some knitting or dance to music of the 1940s. But they really are so much more than that.

We are fortunate enough to have three such facilities. The Mussel Center, Minami Center and Luis Oasis Center (OASIS), and the following is just a sampling of what they provide to the community.

The Luis Oasis Senior Center offers classes and activities in a number of areas, including Arthritis Foundation exercise classes, how to maintain or improve your balance, photography, jewelry making, knitting and crocheting, how to use your smart phone, ceramics, how to make greeting cards, dancing, creative arts expressions, bereavement support, friendship classes, various games, garden club, ham radio, card games, hiking, painting, how to raise grandchildren, Mah Jongg, traffic school, mineral society, orchid society, and a host of other programs designed to bring seniors together to enrich their physical and social well-being.

They also have a monthly pancake breakfast, distribute food, hold a monthly farmers market, sponsor a ukulele band, and more. Many of these programs are also available at the Mussel Senior Center and the Minami Center.

These centers also offer vacation travel packages both individually and jointly, flu shots, pool tables, AARP mature-driver classes, hiking, swimming, movie outings, group attendance at PCPA, Santa Maria Civic Theatre, the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande and the Melodrama in Oceano.

They also provide meeting rooms that can be rented to local groups for entertainment, education and social activities, and they offer a lending library at no cost.

To round things out, there are both daily and long-distance bus rides, cruises and train excursions that can be scheduled through the centers.

Finally, membership in these centers is minimal or free, and anyone 50 years old or older may join.

Our seniors are our community history and legacy, and are responsible for many of the benefits we enjoy today. Without their efforts, we would not have today’s libraries and parks, as well as many of our youth programs. They have given us much, and as today’s community custodians we should do all in our power to ensure they have all the things they need for a productive life style.

Our senior centers play an integral part in achieving that goal.

For additional information the following contact information is provided: Luis Oasis Center, 420 Soares Ave., Orcutt, 805-937-9750; Mussell Center, 510 E. Park St., Santa Maria, 805-925-0951; Minami Center, 600 W. Enos Dr., Santa Maria, 805-925-0951.

Hugh Rafferty is chairman of the Committee to Improve North County, and member of the board of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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