Closing in on a new senior center

The Connection Place is about halfway to its fundraising goal, and could start building the facility this summer.



Organizers hope this summer to start building The Connection Place, a senior activity center that will fill a missing niche in Wausau.

Every city the size of Wausau or larger in Wisconsin has a senior center for providing a space to socialize, exercise and belong. Every one, except Wausau.

That could change this summer. After several years in the works, The Connection Place is about halfway to its fundraising goal and organizers are hopeful they can start building the nonprofit senior center this summer.

The facility will provide three key elements, says organizer Jean Burgener: exercise, education and entertainment. Underlying all that is socialization, something seniors need as much as anyone, but often have less access to. “Seniors need to keep their bodies moving,” Burgener says. “They need to have fun and be with other people. Isolation is a major concern.”

For many years Wausau had an informal senior center at North Central Health Care, supervised by the Aging and Disability Resource Center, which operated in a space at the facility. The ADRC moved to smaller offices on the other side of town in 2016, but senior volunteers maintained some programs at NCHC through late 2017, until NCHC recalled the space for its own uses.

The Connections Place also would address the simple matter of demographics. In Wisconsin, Portage County has the No. 1 aging population and Marathon County is right behind at No. 2. People over the age of 65 are projected to make up one quarter of Marathon County’s population by 2035, an increase from 12-15% currently, according to the latest Marathon County LIFE Report.

The facility is expected to cost $3.5 million to build, and organizers aim to gather 1,000 members. The planned location on Highway NN, near the Rib Mountain Town Hall, was determined through a feasibility study through the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, which also demonstrated the demand for the center.

The programming also could include group travel events. “Seniors want to go places, but they don’t want to travel alone,” Burgener says.

The Connection Place is already taking members, Burgener says. So far 178 people have signed up. Organizers have raised $1.55 million toward the project, and that’s before reaching out to major donors or starting community fundraising, which is slated to begin soon. Contact Burgener at 715-571-4914 or [email protected].