For Kathie Doherty-Peck, the key to the ongoing robustness of the Montville Senior Center is the ongoing robustness of the seniors themselves.
It's a new world for folks who are older than 65, she says.
And that world is being celebrated tonight, as the Montville Senior Center holds its 20th anniversary celebration, starting at 6 p.m.
Before the center opened in the current building, it had its start as club that met in various places around town. Then, the senior center had its home in the building that currently houses the Montville Youth Center.
When the senior center opened in its current spot, 20 years ago, there was no director. Doherty-Peck came on the scene a few years after the center opened, and has been its director since - for 17 years this year.
At the beginning, she says, lots of folks basically came and hung out all day, Doherty-Peck says.
But seniors have changed, she says. Their lives are busier, their days are busier, and they are more active now than ever. Many seniors still work, and many, if not most, are interested in health and exercise and the benefits of an active lifestyle. There's not that much plain old hanging out any more, she says.
For Peggy Ryan, one of the best things about the senior center is playing cards. The camaraderie, the friendship, the card games, they all make her day.
Terry and Jack Marcus come to paint. They love the classes, and are happy to soak up the education, shine up the creativity and show off their work. Gail Hollingsworth has painted for years, and loves working with artist and teacher Blaney Harris.
The art classes, the cards, the community volunteer work, all of these show the changing world, and changing nature of seniors, and the Montville Senior Center.
Zumba - which Peck says she wasn't sure would fly - is filled and has a waiting list.
Computer classes are filled. Art classes are filled.
The senior center offers all of this for free, and 400-500 seniors take advantage of the center every week, Peck says.
"They get education, they get arts and crafts, they get physical exercise, and most important, the biggest benefit, is socialization," she says.
From her office, she can hear people laughing and talking during the art classes, for instance, and she knows that that means success. That that's what it is all about, this senior center.
Everywhere, she says, seniors are all too often alone. Their spouses have died, their families have moved on, and they get isolated. For Doherty-Peck, the senior center's biggest success is getting those isolated seniors out of their homes and into the community that is the senior center.
The challenges are what you might expect - the sour economy, tight budgets, decreasing numbers and sizes of grants. Doherty-Peck's fear is that some day, the free programs will no longer be free.
"I want to be able to continue doing things the way I am doing things," she says.