After nearly 50 years of being known as Senior Opportunity Center, the community center on 36 Grove St. in downtown Asheville has a new name.
During its September 13 meeting, Asheville City Council approved Asheville Parks & Recreation’s (APR) request to rename the building to Grove Street Community Center. While the community center retains a focus on older adults, the new name is reflective of its expanded programming for all ages. As the only public community center in the central business district, the location is the most accessible for nearby neighborhoods including Downtown, South French Broad, South Slope, and WECAN.
Over the next several weeks, APR staff will replace exterior and interior signs, update the center’s digital footprint, and host events to reintroduce the building to the broader community. Current programs and activities can be found on ashevillenc.gov/parks.
Senior Opportunity Center opened in the 1970s as a resource center specializing in recreational programming and outreach services for senior citizens, recognizing that older adults bring significant economic and civic assets to Asheville and challenging the then-prevalent perception that aging be associated with declining health, dependency, and irrelevance. In the early years, APR staff and community organizations offered meals, arts and crafts classes, clubs for special interests and hobbies, cultural experiences, and more opportunities to stay active while aging. Over the years, renovations and updates included a commercial kitchen, expanded craft room, ceramic kiln, greenhouse, drop-off driveway, and outdoor picnic seating.
Today, the community center remains a focal point for active older adults to connect with vital community services that help them stay healthy and independent, but offers much more, including meals and nutrition services; health, exercise, and wellness opportunities; social, cultural, and recreational activities; education and arts programs; volunteer, advocacy, and civic engagement information; development of stronger support systems; and decreased social isolation.
As the center on Grove Street has evolved over time, so has the way the community talks about older adults and retirees. As people live longer and more actively, it’s unsurprising that “senior opportunity center” implies a place for the “old” or “elderly,” not a resource for those still in the prime of life. As 50+ or 65+ become more arbitrary distinctions, the name of the center no longer fits the modern-day experience of aging.
Throughout April 2022, Senior Opportunity Center staff members engaged with regular center visitors around the current name and solicited suggestions through conversations and an on-site suggestion box. In May and June 2022, feedback from the larger community was collected through information sharing and an online survey framed by feedback from the center’s regular users. Community recommendations favored renaming the center to reflect its geographic location with “Grove” being included on multiple suggestions.
Asheville Parks & Recreation
Established in 1956, the Asheville Parks & Recreation Department manages a unique collection of more than 65 public parks, playgrounds, and open spaces throughout the city in a system that also includes full-complex recreation centers, swimming pools, Riverside Cemetery, sports fields and courts, and community centers that offer a variety of wellness-, education-, and culture-related programs for Ashevillians of all ages. With 8 miles of paved greenways and numerous natural surface trails, its complete portfolio acts as the foundation of a vibrant hub for the people of Asheville to connect with their neighbors and explore the natural beauty of a livable and walkable city.
Driven by the promise that Asheville is a better and safer place when everyone from infants to retirees has the opportunity to be supported, healthy, and successful, Asheville Parks & Recreation was the first nationally-accredited municipal recreation department in the United States. For the latest updates, follow the department on Facebook @aprca and Instagram @ashevilleparksandrecreation or visit www.ashevillenc.gov/parks.