Earlier this month, an idea for a Healthy Life Center was presented to the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Ames Economic Development Commission boards. Though it is still in the very early stages of discussion, I think the proposed concept would be an asset to our community and merits our careful consideration which is why I wanted to share a bit more about it.
The goal of the proposed Center would be to provide a one-of-a-kind facility that focuses on making healthy living accessible and enjoyable to people of all ages and socio-economic status. The center would not just be a recreation facility but would instead focus on promoting overall health by supporting physical activity, creating social connections, enhancing long-term health, teaching nutritional behavior, and connecting multi-generations
The conversation on this topic started in February 2016 and the current concept has been developed in collaboration with many community entities: The City of Ames, Des Moines Area Community College, Heartland Senior Services, Iowa State University, Mary Greeley Medical Center and Story County. That alone to me is exciting because our track record has proven that any time key players of the community can come together, great things tend to follow.
The aging population of Iowa, Story County and Ames plays an important role in the need for this Center. As the Baby Boomer Generation ages, their needs will have an enormous impact on health care. This generation wants and expects to age well. As Gary Botine, Mary Greeley Medical Center Chief Financial Officer, explained to our boards this group is health-conscious and wants to stay active and in shape. They want to be life-long learners and want to help others. They want to lose the stigma of the senior center and instead desire to socialize, interact with the community and be involved with all ages—not isolated in stand-alone senior centers.
He also pointed toward the need for better chronic disease management. Chronic diseases are often preventable and frequently manageable through early detection, improved diet, exercise, proper counseling, and treatment therapy. With roughly 50% of Americans living with a chronic condition and 75% of health care dollars in the U.S. going towards treating these diseases, it is a definite concern.
Other factors that support the need for a Healthy Life Center include higher rates of childhood obesity and inactivity, the momentum gained by Healthiest Iowa and Healthiest Ames for increasing wellness within our community, the desire to attract and retain millennials to Ames, the goal of establishing Ames as a retirement destination, the need to enhance quality-of-life facilities and the history of successful partnerships in our community among government entities.
The initial plans include space for a multi-purpose gymnasium that would house a track and cardio/fitness equipment, a physical therapy room, a therapy pool for rehabilitation and fitness classes, a warm water pool for recreational use, an adult day center, a demonstration/participation kitchen, a café/lobby, gathering spaces (that include room for games, arts, crafts, music and computer usage), and space for child care and a children’s indoor playground.
For Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College, this center would provide invaluable hands-on learning experience for students. ISU is one of the few universities that offers a Ph.D. in gerontology -- this center would provide students with outstanding applied learning opportunities. Students from the Culinary Arts program at DMACC would take a leadership role in the demonstration/participation kitchen. DMACC nursing students would have an ideal environment in the adult day center in which to apply the skills they are learning. The opportunities that this center provides for collaboration across Ames entities is incredibly exciting.
Both Mary Greeley Medical Center and Heartland Senior Services would have dedicated space within the facility that they would fund. Subject to City Council and Mary Greeley Board approval, Mary Greeley and The City of Ames would also commit funding towards the shared spaces within the facility. The next steps involve digging deeper into the logistics including figuring out a space to build the facility and the rest of the funding.
My hope in sharing this information is to not only make you aware of the exciting ideas taking shape in our community as we head into 2017, but to also spark you to get involved. Have an opinion on the topic? I hope you’ll share it at an upcoming City Council meeting or reach out to one of our community members involved and provide your feedback. Now more than ever I think it’s important that we all work together and collaborate on big ideas like this. Open dialogue is important for progress. Stay tuned for updates as this exciting project takes shape.
-Dan Culhane, President & CEO