Maintaining membership can be a challengeRosemount seniors have to work to appeal to a new generation
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The challenge that comes with running an organization for seniors is that no matter how popular you are, you’re almost certain to lose some members every year.
They lose mobility. They lose the ability to participate the way they once did. And, yes, they die.
They might want to keep coming, but they’re not able.
The Rosemount Area Seniors have experienced that reality this year. According to president Darline Lehman, 10 group members have died in the past year, and four or five more have had to cut back their involvement.
“It must be at least five of them that are 90 or older,” Lehman said. “That’s really kind of taking a toll.”
People leave town for the winter. They fall out of touch.
It’s a fact that makes the group’s annual member drive, currently in progress, especially important. The RAS has to find ways to keep current members involved and reach out to others who haven’t been part of the group.
There are new Rosemount resident becoming eligible every day, but getting them interest can be a challenge. Attracting younger seniors often means finding new kinds of activities. Baby boomers don’t like to sit around and play cards like older generations do, Lehman said. They’re more likely to look for a health club or a group that allows them to go on outings to plays. They want to be active, and RAS, which uses a room at the Rosemount Community Center as its only permanent meeting place, doesn’t have a lot of resources to offer.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge to find things that interest them,” Lehman said. “This is one of the reasons we really need a senior center that is our own, because of the fact that, at the community center for example, we can’t have a pool table. We meet in a room with no windows. Some of the people don’t like that and they just won’t come.”
The economy is also a factor. Where once it was common for people to retire at 62 or 65, now people need to work longer. Some work into their 70s or their 80s. They don’t have the free time that retirees had in an earlier era.
It’s not like things are dire at the moment. RAS had 243 members in 2010, and it’s already gotten 130 applications from new and renewing members for 2011. But Lehman said after 10 years of rapid growth, membership has stabilized.
The group does what it can to get people interested and keep them coming back. It offers a number of activities, from card tournaments to watercolor painting to bowling. Members are welcome to suggest new activities, as long as they’re willing to help organize them. The group sends out a newsletter every month, and there are catered or pot luck meals two or four times a year.
“One of the things that many people say is they don’t like eating alone,” Lehman said. “When they lose their spouse, that’s one of the hardest things, to realize they’re eating their meals alone.”
The membership drive will continue through Dec. 1. For information call the Rosemount parks and recreation office at 651-322-6000.