The Baker Senior Center Naples has finally opened a new building that has been in the works for five years.
“It’s bright, it’s big, it’s so spacious,” said Grace Chen, a fitness instructor at the center.
“The building itself is 30,000 square feet,” said Dr. Jaclynn Faffer, CEO of the Baker Senior Center Naples. “We chose this land because most of our seniors lived in close proximity to these [zip] codes.”
Faffer runs the nonprofit and is the visionary behind the building. The center opened in 2014, leasing the space to offer a weekly hot lunch and bring our older population together. Once word spread about the $60 annual membership and camaraderie the center fosters, the memberships increased, and soon it was bursting at the seams.
“When they had the drum circle, the floor would be reverberating,” Faffer said. “Now, I don’t even know what’s taking place.”
There are no reverberations now because there is so much more space, from a tech room to a cafe, a library, a fitness center and an entire wing upstairs devoted to cognitive care. Seniors battling dementia can meet there and participate in music and art therapy while their caregivers get a break.
The Baker Senior Center Naples also offers counselors through a partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University. Every detail keeps seniors in mind.
Outside, the Garden Club meets in a space with both high and low flowerbeds, so every senior has the opportunity to plant flowers and veggies regardless of their mobility.
“I do needlework,” said Cynthia Guarnieri, a member of the center. “Wednesday, I go to an exercise class.”
Guarneri has been attending since the center first opened. The jam-packed social calendar keeps her busy, but it means more to her than that.
“I’ve been a widow for many years,” Guarnieri said. “And for me, this is a socialization.”
“Isolation and loneliness, we now know, puts people at a higher risk of earlier death than obesity and smoking,” Faffer said.
That’s why Faffer kept pushing for extra funds as well as the new building, and generous donors came through. And the work is still not done—the Baker Senior Center Naples has plans to build a meditation garden and walking trails.