IOWA CITY — Ina Loewenberg’s first experience with the Iowa City/ Johnson County Senior Center in Iowa City was in 1998, when she began taking billiards classes.
“I was attracted to the idea and I am in a group of women who still play every Friday morning,” she said.
Loewenberg also now takes exercise classes and an occasional literature course at the center, and leads a poetry reading group called Reading Aloud that started meeting 10 years ago. The group has 12 members.
“We do it all out of love and joy and when we give readings either at the Senior Center or the bookstore or schools or senior residences, everyone does it as a volunteer activity,” Loewenberg said.
This year, the center is celebrating its 35th anniversary. It opened in September 1981 and provides programs and activities so those over the age of 50 stay active mentally and physically, said Michelle Buhman, a program specialist.
“We got started here at the Senior Center because there was a grass roots movement of individuals who felt there was a need in our community for a Senior Center,” Buhman said.
The center is located in a historic post office building on Linn Street.
A housing and Community Development Block Grant helped pay for the purchase the building from the federal government as well as renovations, Buhman said. Renovations began in 1978 and were completed in 1981, Buhman said.
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In 2015, there were 11,243 activities sponsored or hosted by the Senior Center. There are 1,584 members.
“It’s a very well-run Senior Center, we’re extremely lucky to have that in Iowa City,” Loewenberg said. “This is the amazing thing because in a sense I really don’t have credentials for teaching poetry, I just have always loved it and I’ve loved to read it. The other people have just the same joy and enthusiasm in doing this that I do.”
Gail Brehio, who now is 63, has been taking classes at the Senior Center since she was 55. She serves on the Senior Center Steering Council.
Brehio also is a member of the Voices of Experience Chorus. The group rehearses and performs every spring, summer and Christmas at the center and in the community.
“It’s just wonderful, the experience of being in a group at my age,” she said. “Going to the center for me is like being able to continue to be a student in my life. At age 63, to feel like you have a school that’s yours, there’s a belonging that is just so rewarding to me.”