Six months after opening, the first MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center has been embraced by the community

Suzanne Parr works out at the MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center operated by Healthy Living OKC. | Photo Garett Fisbeck
Suzanne Parr works out at the MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center operated by Healthy Living OKC. | Photo Garett Fisbeck

Due to the rising popularity of pickleball — a racquet sport that combines the elements of tennis, badminton and pingpong — among members of the first Oklahoma City MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center, Healthy Living OKC leaders decided to complete a minor gymnasium improvement project.

When the gym reopened the morning of Sept. 22, the center’s executive director arrived at the facility to see three games of pickleball being played on the gym floor that previously accommodated two games.

He also witnessed “a big group of folks waiting on the benches next in line.”

That’s how a typical story starts for Jefferson Killgore, Healthy Living OKC’s executive director. Around the northwest OKC facility, Killgore often sees arts classes in which every easel is taken or a water aerobics class with several rows of swimmers facing a single instructor. Members are present, involved and active inside the 40,272 square-foot facility built by the city and operated by the nonprofit Healthy Living OKC.

“People are pleased with the product, and the product certainly isn’t pickleball,” Killgore said. “It’s not double pinochle or bocce ball either. The product is relationships. We have members that are finding a renewed sense of identity, belonging and meaning in these relationships.”

Successful start

About six months ago, Healthy Living OKC officially began operating the first MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center, one of the eight initiatives approved by Oklahoma City voters in 2009 as part of the city’s MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) capital improvement program. The initiative earned around $50 million in MAPS funds for the construction of four centers proposed as facilities to improve the health and wellness of metro citizens over 50.

The first center, located on N. Rockwell Avenue near Putnam City North High School, features a heated indoor saltwater fitness pool, an exercise room, an aerobics room, classroom space, a billiards hall, a demonstration kitchen, an art studio, a cafe, a lounge and a health screening room.

While past MAPS projects, like the city’s downtown arena and library, famous canal project through Bricktown and improvements to the Oklahoma River, have proven successful, it was anybody’s guess how citizens would initially respond to the Senior Health and Wellness Centers. Four years ago, Healthy Living OKC leaders initiated a study that revealed there were around 48,000 eligible members within a 5-mile radius of the proposed facility. Leaders set a goal of 1,600 members by the end of the center’s first five years.

The center met that goal in one and a half months and recorded around 3,500 memberships at the six-month mark.

“We’ve been very intentional to let the members vote with their feet,” Killgore said. “We offer roughly 48 group exercise classes weekly, but there are 100 activities that take place in our social corridor in a month. That could be the Tuesday night group that calls themselves the Rockwell Pickers. They all get together and play the guitar together. We’ve got another group called Mending Hearts. We have a demographic that is 50 and older; many have lost a loved one. We are facilitating a group where those conversations can take place and there is healing.”

Healthy Living OKC’s schedule includes exercise classes like Zumba, yoga, Pilates, dance, chair fitness, Tai Chi and more. It also features classes or activities like ukulele playing, bird watching, beginning drawing and painting, technology help, leatherworking and more. Individual memberships are $30 per month. Two people from the same household can share a membership for $50 per month.

Next up: Capitol Hill

Across town in the south Oklahoma City neighborhood of Capitol Hill, construction workers are placing the finishing touches on the second MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center south of Capitol Hill High School. David Todd, MAPS program manager, said the contractor expects to complete the 39,000 square-foot facility by the end of the year.

NorthCare, a healthcare nonprofit, will serve as the operator and move into the building in February.

The Capitol Hill center will share many of the same amenities as the northwest center, but the building was designed around meeting the needs of the surrounding neighborhood and the operator. Once it opens, visitors will note a larger clinic space when compared to the northwest center.

“For years, the [MAPS 3] subcommittees and council have shared their desires that they didn’t want to design a center and drop it into neighborhoods,” Todd said. “They wanted it to respond to the needs of the neighborhood and the operator.”

The city and Langston University officials are in negotiations for the third center for northeast OKC, but no location has been named. In January, the MAPS office will begin initial work on the fourth and final center. Neither the operating partner nor the location has been determined.

At Healthy Living OKC, Killgore said, leaders stand ready to collaborate with fellow operators. He hopes to foster relationships with the fellow operators and collaborate on successes as well as struggles that arise.

His advice is to build relationships.

“We have an opportunity to serve others well,” Killgore said. “It is really about being a good neighbor to one another.”

Print headline: Raised bar; Six months after opening, the first MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center has been embraced by the community.

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