All right, all you baby boomers, it's time to step back and take stock. Time to stop the posturing and self-deception, step in front of the mirror and take a good, hard look at yourselves.
Hmm. Receding hairline. Broadening middle. Wrinkles more than simple laugh lines. Cellulite threatening to overrun its entrenched position and breach the front lines.The signs, alas, are unmistakable - you're getting old.
Hey, no feeling sorry for yourself now. Prune juice isn't so bad. If you're going to feel sorry for anybody, feel sorry for Salt Lake County - that's who has to figure out how to accommodate all you folks into its senior centers in the future.
Or, shall we say, the coming-up-fast years. The county's population of seniors (defined as residents older than 60) is expected to go from 94,000 in 1997 to 142,000 in 2010 - a 51 percent increase in just 13 years. What's more, "this is only the beginning," according to a Senior Center needs analysis report released last week by Wikstrom Economic & Planning Consultants. "The year 2010 is the first year that the senior-center system will feel the impact of the `baby boomer' population."
The 17 senior centers scattered throughout Salt Lake County are day-use-only places where senior citizens can come and socialize, play checkers, do low-impact aerobics, take classes on anything from taxes to basket-weaving to computers, and have a nutritious lunch. They are typically open from around 9 a.m. to around 3 p.m. a few days each week.
There are no fees, although there are suggested donations. Average age of participants: 77. Proportion that live in poverty: well over half.
"(The senior centers) are just places where people can come and be with others (who are) in a similar situation," said Kerry Steadman, the county's director of human services.
In many ways, a senior center is the equivalent of the malt shop for teens or the golf course for middle-age folks. It facilitates physical and social interaction, which has been shown to be important for a person's well-being at any age. A national study in 1990 concluded that senior center participants are healthier than those who do not participate.
"People make friends with each other here," said Maria Docekal, 87, a regular at the Central City senior center. "It means a lot to people."
Nevertheless, only 7 percent of Salt Lake County seniors participate in senior centers, significantly lower than the national average of 12 percent.
The report recommends various strategies for accommodating more seniors in the coming years, including new centers in South Salt Lake and the county's southeast, central-east, central-west and southwest areas. It recommends closing and replacing Salt Lake's Central City center and the Draper center, as well as expanding the Northwest, Riverton, Midvale and Magna centers.
All that, of course, is going to cost money.
"We will be having further conversation about funding," said Shauna O'Neal of the county's Aging Services Division in a meeting last week with the County Commission.
Meanwhile, life goes on in the existing centers. In the Central City center, Docekal and her husband, Fred Docekal, sat down Monday to a lunch of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, zucchini, a roll and fruit, along with about 50 other local seniors. They were treated to pre-meal piano music and, like most of the seniors there, are friendly and talkative.
"I'm 94 years old," Fred Docekal said with a chuckle. "I'm ready to go to the cemetery."
Asked how he's doing with his longtime hobby of playing chess (for which he won numerous awards in the past), Fred responded by tapping his temple.
"I need a new head," he said.