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Urge city to stick to original Center 4 Life plan

By Staff | Apr 29, 2021

To the editor:

I have lived on Sanibel for 32 years, and quickly joined the Island Seniors/Center 4 Life — first established in 1977 — after discovering the wonderful array of offerings they had for citizens over 50 at a nominal fee. With help from our city council, a central space at the old library opened up for our use in 1993 expanding once again a new variety of activities we could join. Participations exceeded 13,000 by 2019. Membership increased dramatically when seniors had their own home, an experience so many of us appreciate from groups we have joined over the course of our lives providing us with a sense of camaraderie and growth.

I for one love bridge and was pleased to find so many experts ready to help me improve my game, the exercise programs, the casual Wednesday lunches with new and old friends, the health series designed for seniors, book reviews, the trips to various Florida sites in the comfort of hired buses, and most especially the kayak runs to remote parts of the island’s canals and bay areas inaccessible to the average kayaker. I even took a driving course they gave to improve driving skills and save money on my insurance! But my memories linger mostly on the cherished folks I meet, very bright, engaging, with good hearts, and eager to share their considerable knowledge. As we age we constantly recognize the importance of finding others of similar years who experience common joys and sorrows. By 2019 there were over 800 members at the center with 66 the average age of the entire Sanibel population.

The city council members and the Center 4 Life board have worked hard over the years to find expanded and safe space to move the center again, and we were very pleased to settle on the former Sanibel Captiva Community Bank on Library Way, with the council taking out a loan specifically for the renovations needed to adapt the bank space for the Center 4 Life. However, a year of COVID has been a severe disruptor for our center’s plans: suddenly without any prior consultation, the Island Seniors/Center 4 Life board is informed the Sanibel police will take over the bank and preempt the funds designated for the center, without any concrete plans for finding or funding a new seniors facility.

The Center 4 Life and its senior members have been a treasured part of the cultural world on Sanibel for almost 45 years. Are we really going to scatter this distinct and important group of tax paying island residents to focus on police needs for more locker space and offices?

Please everyone who has treasured their years at the center or understand the need for seniors fellowship call the city at 239-472-3700 or email our city council members urging them to continue their years of outstanding support for our Island Seniors by keeping to their original plan of using the loan to renovate the bank for the Center 4 Life within the next 13 months.

Let’s be sure that the Center 4 Life is one important institution COVID cannot destroy.

Jill Dillon