IOWA CITY — New leadership is bringing a new focus on expanding the reach of the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center.
The senior center, a division within the city of Iowa City, has been offering classes, activities and special events since 1981 to adults 50 and older.
The center’s new coordinator has plans to expand more of its programming to those outside the 50-and-up age range, which she intends to accomplish through stronger outreach.
“This was an opportunity in my everyday work to allow me the space and opportunity to look at things and really develop things in a way I think can be really empowering for the Iowa City area for our community,” said LaTasha DeLoach, 37, who took over as coordinator July 31.
The center’s mission is to promote “optimal aging” by creating opportunities for wellness, social engagement and lifelong learning, according to the city’s website.
“Those are things that people don’t realize is happening in this building, so we’re going to work very hard on the outside of our building so it matches the vibrancy of the inside of the building. That’ll take time,” DeLoach said.
The senior center has more than 1,500 members. It also has six full-time employees and more than 600 volunteers.
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To expand the center’s reach beyond those numbers, DeLoach said it’s important to meet individuals across different backgrounds, despite their distance from the center’s downtown Iowa City location. She hopes to develop a “hub and spoke” model by using other spaces in the area for senior center events and programs.
DeLoach also wants to improve the center’s physical space. She aims to start a fundraiser to remodel the building’s commercial kitchen and change it into a space that can be used for member programming and for outside parties.
An activist, former school board member and trained social worker, DeLoach took over as coordinator after the retirement of Linda Kopping, who served in that capacity for 23 years.
Before DeLoach came to work with some of the oldest members of Johnson County’s population, her focus was on the community’s youngest. She served as a social worker with Johnson County Social Services for 10 years as a child abuse prevention specialist and working on eliminating racial disparities in the juvenile justice system.
“The beauty of having a social work background is you’re trained to work with human behavior,” DeLoach said. “You are trained to work with people and that doesn’t have an age attached to it.”
Her transition has been going beautifully, she said.
“The beautiful thing about coming from child abuse prevention to working with aging adults is that it’s the same thing,” she said. “Keeping kids safe is everyone’s business. Keeping our aging population safe and in the community with us is everyone’s business.”
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