From zero to senior

(First published in the May 31, 2018 issue of City Pages)

The proposed Connections Place senior center asks the county for nearly $1 million. But wait, the YMCA is expanding into senior programming too.


Fundraising is underway for a new senior center called The Connections Place. But the YMCA is also working on enhancing its senior-focused activities.

People have long bemoaned the fact that the Wausau area doesn’t have a senior center, when most communities of a similar size have one. Even some smaller communities do.

But now it looks like not just one, but two senior center type projects are in the works.

Organizers of the proposed Connections Place recently asked Marathon County leaders to fund up to 25% of the cost of developing the Rib Mountain based senior center, which is expected to cost $3.7 million when all is done. Organizers so far have raised $1.7 million toward the facility.

The financial ask didn’t go over well with the county’s Health and Human Services Committee members, who are well aware of another county budget shortfall on the horizon. Money is tight, members told Connection Place representatives Ken Day and Steve Anderson.

Perhaps the biggest shocker came from committee member Bill Miller, who says the YMCA in Wausau is planning a senior center of its own, with plans to announce soon. Why should the county support The Connections Place project over all the others that might come up in the community, Miller asked. “I’m not opposed to the senior center in Rib Mountain, but I am opposed to the county kicking in money toward this.”

Other committee members echoed some version of this statement. Matt Bootz said that he wasn’t hearing much eagerness from town of Texas residents to drive to Rib Mountain to visit the center. Katie Rosenberg says she has heard a lot of excitement for the center, but still, $1 million is a lot to ask for.

So is this yet-unannounced senior center at the YMCA true? Well, sort of, says Woodson YMCA Executive Director Bryan Bailey.

Senior programming will be an important component of the new expansion, as will plenty of other aspects, such as additional space for the YMCA’s gymnastics program. “I think the city and community needs more services and opportunities for seniors,” Bailey says. “It’s part of our strategic plan, to be more intentional in how we serve our senior population.”

The full scope of the YMCA’s expansion plans will be revealed sometime in July, Bailey says.

Some kind of gathering and programming space for older residents is a community-wide issue, as seniors (age 65+) will total 20% of the U.S. population by 2030.