The Town of Marana senior program covering the southern part of town is expected to move to a new location in the Marana Operations Center by the end of the year.

"We have a satellite senior program in the Continental Ranch area that meets at Lord of Grace Church fellowship hall twice a week," said Tom Ellis, director of Marana's parks and recreation department.

Marana has a lease agreement with the church at the intersection of Ina and Cortaro roads, but as part of working through the department's budget and trying to conserve funds, the town decided to move that senior program into a remodeled facility at the Marana Operations Center on West Ina Road.

"At the MOC we have a former school building of approximately 3,000 square feet that we're remodeling, redoing the floors, walls and restrooms," Ellis said. "We hope to have it finished by the end of the year, so the senior program will continue running at Lord of Grace Church through December."

Marilyn Payton, coordinator of Marana's senior program, said the staff and volunteers are looking forward to the move because it will allow them to have two activities taking place at the same time, and allow more space for storage.

"It also will be very handy in terms of location for seniors on the south side of town," Payton noted.

The main location of the senior program is at the Marana Senior Center in Ora Mae Harn Park near the municipal complex. Beginning July 1, the center cut back its operations from six days a week to five, running Mondays through Fridays. Programming at Lord of Grace Church is now on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Payton said the main location sees about 60 persons a day this time of year, with about 100 a day in the winter months. The Lord of Grace location averages 55 persons a day, she noted.

Marana's senior program has nearly 900 members, Payton said. As of July 1, the membership fee will be $40 annually, which gives an individual access to fitness equipment, a computer room, free fitness classes, and priority for signing up for events and trips.

"We celebrate all the major holidays with parties, like the Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, Halloween, and even have a Hawaiian party," Payton said. "All of them take place at the senior center and if there's a charge it's a flat fee and depends on the venue and if a meal is served."

Payton pointed out the senior center conducts fitness classes each weekday, offering a variety of disciplines, such as aerobics, strength training, Zumba and others. In addition, classes are presented on line dancing, arts and crafts, computer use and technology, and dog obedience.

"We also go on a field trip once a month, and twice a month during peak season of October through March," Payton said. "We'll tour venues around town like the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Tohono Chul Park, and also have done special tours of industrial works and the 9-1-1 call center. We also attend the Senior Expo and Senior Day at the Tucson Zoo."

Payton said area festivals are popular field trips with Marana seniors.

"We've visited the Tubac Arts Festival, the Fourth Avenue Street Fair and the Tucson Gem Show a number of times," she said. "We only have a 22-passenger bus, so we're limited in the numbers we can take on a single trip."

One of the challenges facing Payton and her volunteers centers on programming.

"It's challenging to program for an age range of 40 years, and from active individuals to those who want a place to visit and socialize," Payton said. "So we must cater to two different groups of our clientele. Generally, the senior center sees more people who are playing cards or bingo or taking classes. At the Lord of Grace location, the members are younger and more active."

Senior program staffing has been affected by recent town budget cuts, dropping Payton's staff from six to three individuals who must run both locations.

"We're transforming into a more volunteer program where seniors help with some duties, such as answering the phones at the front desk, calling bingo and planning parties," Payton said. "We want to carry on the same programs they're accustomed to, so we'll cover both facilities with staff and volunteers."

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