By Aaron Landau
[Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series on continuing education opportunities for seniors in and around La Mesa. This article previously appeared in the La Mesa Historical Society newsletter.]
The La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center (AEC) is located at the corner of La Mesa Boulevard and University Avenue. It opened in 1965 as the Adult Recreation Center. A few years later the name changed to the Senior Adult Center.
What’s in a name? Obviously a great deal, as the label of “senior” over the years made people feel old. So in 2003, the La Mesa City Council changed the name to the Adult Enrichment Center. Makes you feel younger, doesn’t it? It’s a much more appealing name as “60 is now the new 40.”
On average, 200 to 300 people per day utilize the AEC for a wide variety of activities.
Kathy Tinsley is the recreation supervisor for this gem of a community asset. For 26 years she has been managing the AEC. Tinsley is also a longtime La Mesa Historical Society board member
The AEC has numerous partnerships which are key to its success. One partnership is with the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) Adult Education Department. Another is with the Sharp-Grossmont Hospital Senior Resources Center. The center is located at the Briarcrest facility of the hospital across from Briarcrest Park on Wakarusa Street. This collaboration yields nurses performing monthly blood pressure screenings and giving flu shots.
There is a partnership with the Senior Communities program, part of San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). They serve lunch at the AEC. Lunches are ordered in advance and there is no income requirement, although donations are accepted and appreciated. HHSA also has a home delivery service in La Mesa, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley.
Education for seniors
The AEC sponsors conferences and holds classes to educate seniors on topics important to their health and safety needs. The AEC is involved with the East County Health Fair, which is overseen by East County Senior Service Providers. There is also a monthly AARP safe driving course at the AEC. It definitely works as evidenced by the fact that no one has yet driven into the building.
There are also numerous classes of interest at the AEC. Eighty percent of the classes are through the GUHSD Adult Education Department. The Health Occupations Center also offers classes run by volunteers. There are classes in folk dance, bridge, Hawaiian dance, pinochle and music. The fee for classes ranges from $1 per week to $76 per session.
There are also various workshops sponsored by SDG&E and Helix Water on energy saving and water conservation. It pays to save on energy and water.
An attorney comes to the center once a month and offers legal assistance with legal information and a referral. The referral is to Senior Citizens Legal Services which is funded by the county.
Every Friday, a veterans advocate visits the AEC clubhouse to help file claims on behalf of veterans.
The city of La Mesa budgets $300,000 per year for the AEC. This allows for expenditures for programs, maintenance, and energy costs. It also pays the salaries of two staff persons –– Kathy Tinsley and a full-time custodian. Your city’s tax dollars at work.
In addition, there are numerous revenue streams which add up to a revenue river. The GUHSD classes generate revenue for use of the space. There are also fee-generated trips sponsored by the AEC, as well as membership possibilities which are not mandatory. Finally, fees for classes are an important part of the mix.
The AEC facility is rented out at times for various seminars on financial planning, long-term care, and living trusts. The facility is also available for weddings and birthday parties. Alanon and Alcoholics Anonymous receive a 30 percent discount on the rental rate for their meetings. Church groups can also rent the facility, which can accommodate up to 150 people.
The AEC is command central for Rides4Neighbors. This program pairs volunteer drivers with those individuals who need transportation assistance for doctor appointments, shopping, and other personal needs.
There are about 1,000 riders in the program. Most are “frequent flyers.” The program is available for most East County residents. There are about 40 volunteer drivers who are compensated for mileage.
The program is totally funded by the federal government and a state grant for SANDAG, our regional governmental body. The staff for this program is housed at the AEC business office. The staff consists of a full-time transportation specialist and a half-time clerical assistant.
–Aaron Landau is the former president of the La Mesa Historical Society. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.