Published: Feb 24, 2013 02:13 PM
Modified: Feb 24, 2013 02:14 PM
Recently some community members, particularly the racquetball players disappointed that the Y has chosen to remove its racquetball courts, have made claims in the media and in other ways that the Y discriminates against seniors.
This claim, besides being untrue, is particularly hurtful to those of us who work hard every day to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has access to all the Y has to offer.
With that being said, I’d like to clear up any question of discrimination against seniors at the Y.
The Y has more than 1,000 senior members. Last week alone, more than 400 of those members visited the Y, partaking in the dozens of options offered to our seniors.
These members are active participants in the 14 weekly aqua classes, with nearly 75 percent of the participants in those classes (an average of 210 people per week) being seniors. They are joining four senior specific classes offered per week, with each class averaging 20 participants. And of the approximately 30 other weekly classes that are offered at the Y, nearly half the participants are seniors. Our senior members are not only participating in the classes, but many also regularly use the wellness floor and can be found walking on treadmills, riding bikes and using the weight machines.
The Y schedules many activities for seniors outside of the facilities so they can enjoy the surrounding community together. This includes numerous trips throughout the year, such as the one scheduled for this past Monday where we took a group to a museum in Raleigh, as well as a trip we have planned to take a group to the State Fair in October.
The Chapel Hill Y has multiple programs in place to ensure that any senior who is interested in joining the Y has the ability to do so. Notably, the Y has entered into an agreement with Healthways with the intent of providing better access and support for seniors. This organization provides seniors with free membership to the Y and then reimburses the Y at a much lower rate each month than the normal senior rate. Despite the economics of this arrangement, the Y made the decision to offer these memberships to seniors, because we know that our seniors need a place to come to be healthy in spirit, mind and body.
In addition to the Healthways partnership, the Y also provides membership scholarships to seniors every year. In 2012 we provided thousands of dollars in scholarship support to seniors who otherwise would not have been able to afford to come to the Y. It is our policy to never turn anyone away from the Y based on financial means.
The board, leadership and staff of the Y are focused on making decisions that enable us to impact the greatest number of people in the greatest way. We work very hard to base our decisions in fact and data. When we analyzed 14 months of membership survey data we saw that 45 percent of those members responding that they were unhappy with the Y indicated that they were so because of the small size and crowdedness of the wellness floor, the lack of machines and the long wait for equipment. We knew we needed to listen and we knew we needed to find a solution.
Given our limited funds, capital expansion is not an option for us at this time so we needed to find areas in the Y that could be renovated and repurposed. Through more data and analysis, the racquetball courts were identified as one of the most underutilized areas of the Y and repurposing that space was the best solution to meet the broader needs of our membershipSusan Greene is the vice chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Board of Directors.
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