Scarborough Downs will open its doors as a senior drop-in center for two days a week and has scheduled a grand opening for Feb. 2.

The center, which will be located at the Scarborough Downs Winners Circle room, is tentatively scheduled to be open to seniors from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The morning hours were chosen because many seniors spend time in the morning at local businesses drinking coffee and talking.

“There’s obviously a need to gather, talk with each other and socialize,” said Susan Higgins, marketing director for Scarborough Downs. “This is basically that place for them.”

Seniors will be given the opportunity to use the space as they see fit, and coffee and pastries will be provided during operating hours. There also will be monthly opportunities to host speakers and musicians at the drop-in center. The center will not be dedicated to any specific senior group, but will be open to all seniors who wish to stop by.

Scarborough Downs is flexible in meeting the seniors needs, and as interest grows, more days, hours of operation and extended food service will be made available.

“We’re starting slow, and we’re going to build upon it and fine tune it as it goes along,” Higgins said.

To help get a better idea about what the seniors would like to have happen at the center, a comments/suggestion box will be available to help Scarborough Downs find ways to best accommodate their needs.

Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry first suggested offering the drop-in center, Higgins said. The Downs has been hosting the monthly meetings of Senior Voices, and the concept was expanded in light of the recently defeated bond request for the construction of the senior center.

The Feb. 2 grand opening will have some form of entertainment, and a buffet lunch is being offered for a $3 donation.

The drop-in center will be offered during Scarborough Downs’ off-season. Racing will begin in late March. But by the end of March another organization or business in town might be willing to open its doors to the seniors and serve as a drop-in center until the racing season concludes, Higgins said.

Meanwhile, the town’s two senior organizations – Senior Voices and Senior Series – are now discussing the possibility of merging into one senior organization.

“We’re heading in that direction,” said Ted Tibbals, of Senior Series.

Elizabeth McCann, founder of Senior Voices, said that organization is hoping the merger moves forward.

“I think it’s wonderful if we could make it all one,” McCann said. “I think we’d have a better chance of getting a senior center.”

Town Councilor Shawn Babine, the liaison for the Senior Services Study Committee, said nearly everyone present at a meeting last week with seniors thought it was a good idea.

He said the discussions for consolidating the two groups are progressing, and he has provided both groups with a draft of the proposed merger, which if done would create a single governing body comprised of the boards from both organizations. This new board would direct how town money for senior activities is spent and assist with organizing the activities.

The merger will be discussed at the end of the month and, if an agreement can be reached, a proposal would be forwarded to the Town Council in February.

Babine said the goal is to receive council approval just before the beginning of the new fiscal year, although he expects the group to informally merge prior to the final decision.

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