By Larry Kidder | Four original members of the Senior Advisory and Planning Committee (SAPC) are still serving today. Judy Benson (seated on right) and Pat Campbell (seated on left) have been coming to Drayson Center since 1999 and are charter members of SAPC, which formed in 2005. Here they flank Romy Niblack, the first senior aerobics instructor, who also began at Drayson in 1999 and served as senior wellness coordinator from 2007 to 2014. Standing are Larry Kidder (left), original senior program coordinator, and Bess Getman, the current senior program coordinator who took over in 2015. Two more SAPC charter members, Joanne Butler and Patsy Gillies, were not able to be present for the photo.
Senior Wellness Program members Judy Benson, Pat Campbell, and Patsy Gillies have been coming to Loma Linda University Drayson Center for close to 20 years.
That was about the same time Romy Niblack began teaching senior-focused water aerobics and other classes. Her efforts led to the Senior Wellness Program that brings nearly 1,500 seniors to Drayson Center to better their health and lift their spirits.
In 2005, the idea of creating a formal senior program at Drayson Center was presented to Loma Linda University administrators. Ron Cronk, retired intramurals manager, and Larry Kidder, MA, communications writer, teamed up to present the idea, with the full support of Don Sease, MBA, Drayson Center’s director.
The Senior Wellness Program was designed to make use of an otherwise empty facility during the daytime hours of 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Seniors also use the facility during normal hours on Sundays.
“We had to turn on the lights and staff the building anyway,” explains Sease. “We thought, ‘why not let the seniors in our community have Drayson to themselves during the slow hours when everyone else is going to school or working?’”
The program grew from there. “Our seniors take excellent care of Drayson Center, and their membership fees help to fund not only their own classes and social events but other important services for the rest of our membership,” Sease continues.
Kidder served as the founding senior program coordinator. His first task was to form a committee that, as he put it, “would essentially run the program.” Kidder adds, “I wanted our seniors to really buy into the program, so I basically let them run it and I served as their facilitator.” He solicited the help of a number of active seniors recommended by Niblack to form the original Senior Advisory and Planning Committee—or SAPC. Benson, Campbell, and Gillies were three of those original recommendations, along with JoAnne Butler, who volunteered her time to serve as an administrative assistant to Kidder, providing invaluable help, advice, and support.
When Kidder left Drayson in 2006, Marion Swenson served a short stint as senior program coordinator, followed by Romy Niblack, who took on the role from 2007 through the end of 2014. In January of 2015, Bess Getman assumed leadership in addition to her duties as events manager—two roles she continues to fill.
Back in 2005, the Senior Wellness Program organized its first annual Senior Health and Fitness Fair, bringing in experts to speak on topics that concern seniors, as well as demonstrating a number of the activities and services already in place for seniors.
In October 2017, the 13th annual Senior Health and Fitness Fair drew a crowd of more than 1,000, with 80-plus exhibitors filling Opsahl Gym. A second event, the Senior Triathlon, was originally created by Romy Niblack and recently drew more than 60 participants to the Ninth annual Senior Triathlon this past year.
“Our goal has always been to help our seniors stay healthy, connected, and independent,” Sease suggests. “We are blessed to have more than 1,500 seniors from the surrounding communities continue to make Drayson their wellness center. We offer a free membership to seniors 80 years old and better, and we have more than 400 members taking advantage of that benefit.”
Sease concludes, “We always have room for more seniors. Come and join our senior community for your health, vitality, and fun.”