Wu Opens New City-Operated Senior Center

Special to the Times-Free Press

Last week, Mayor Michelle Wu, in partnership with Massport, announced the opening of a new city-owned senior center in East Boston, located at 7 Bayswater Street. Mayor Wu joined Massport, elected officials and community members involved with advocating for the new center at a ribbon cutting Wednesday, on the one year anniversary of her taking office as Mayor. The center will be operated by the Age Strong Commission and managed by the Property Management Department. 

“This new, accessible senior center in East Boston will expand opportunities for our older adults to connect and build community,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m grateful to all our City departments, local partners, and community members that have advocated for years to make today’s opening a reality.”

Mayor Michelle Wu (center) is surrounded by senior center staff and elected officials as she cuts the ribbon to officially open the city-owned senior center in East Boston.

The East Boston Senior Center, based on community input, will offer programs and services for older adults (Boston residents age 60+) starting December 1. The center will provide lunch on weekdays, as well as classes for wellness, entertainment, and more. Between now and December 1, the center will offer tours to interested community members, November 21-23 and 28-30, during regular hours, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

“This new senior center in East Boston will raise the bar for senior programming in Boston and is a great example of what can happen when the City partners with residents and entities like MassPort to serve a critical neighborhood need,” said Chief of Human Services, José F. Massó. “We’re excited to be able to offer programming that will resonate with all the diverse groups of older adults that make up East Boston.”

“Socialization, connection, and community are vital to human wellbeing,” said Emily K. Shea, Age Strong Commissioner. “Research shows that people who have friends and participate in activities are more healthy and live longer. The new center will provide a place for our older residents to connect with each other and engage in a richer, healthier life.”

“This was a great collaborative effort between PFD, Age Strong, and Property Management,” said Chief of Operations Dion Irish. “The renovation allows for additional programming and services while the new addition enhances accessibility with respect to its existing urban setting.”

Formerly serving as the East Boston Barnes Branch of the Boston Public Library, the construction of the new center site officially started in September 2020 and was led by the City’s Public Facilities Department. New additions and renovation of the site were initially delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues. This project, with a focus on accessibility for older adults, consisted of over 20 external partners, including the architect, Fennick McCredie Architecture (FMA), and general contractor, GVW Construction (GVW). Additionally, Lifespan Design was brought on as a consultant for their expertise in senior center features, which was noted in the RFP.

The new center consists of two levels, with modern, accessibility features for older adults including an elevator (upgraded from a lift), wave/sensor door openings instead of push buttons, tables that wheelchairs can easily roll up to, bright lighting, a hearing loop system (hearing aids can connect to), and stairs with step-grippers. The center’s restrooms are large enough to include a care partner, wheelchair, or walker and include dual grab bars and toilet seats of different heights to accommodate older adults of varied heights. Light switches are installed at a lower height and electrical outlets higher to accommodate older adults as they bend. Outside of the center, there is a walking path in the backyard to cue folks with memory loss as well as raised garden beds, so older adults can participate in gardening either from a wheelchair or without steep bending. 

“The opening of this vital civic space for our seniors comes after decades of advocacy from many individuals,” said City Councilor Gabriela Coletta. “I am so grateful to the community members, former and current elected officials, and Massport for making this dream a reality. The center will be a hub of activity and bring people together for years to come.”

“Supporting our seniors is one of the most important things we can do as a community and a city, thank you, Mayor Michelle Wu, the Age Strong Commission, Public Facilities, members of the East Boston Community, and MassPort for your work in bringing a new Senior Center to East Boston,” said State Senator Lydia Edwards.

“I’m excited to see the long-awaited dream of the East Boston Senior Center finally realized,” said Representative Adrian Madaro. “This is something that I have advocated for throughout my time in office. Our seniors are the bedrock of our community, and this new state of the art center will provide East Boston’s elders with a dedicated space to gather, participate in enriching activities, and access supports and resources. Thank you to the city’s Age Strong team and Mayor Wu for helping us get the Senior Center across the finish line!”

The City committed $6.5 million in the capital budget for the design and construction of the new center. In partnership with the City of Boston to improve the quality of life for residents, Massport contributed significant funding for the creation and operation of this center.

“Massport is pleased to partner with the City of Boston and support the new East Boston senior center, which will deliver important services and programming,” said Massport CEO Lisa Wieland. “We are glad to see the community’s hard work and dedication over the years coming together in this terrific new asset for East Boston.”

The new center will be led by Age Strong’s Lina Tramelli and Luz Leal, both bilingual in English and Spanish, to serve East Boston’s diverse community of older adults. Visit www.boston.gov/ebsc or call 617-461-3131 for more information.

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