PEPPERELL -- With its 10th anniversary nearing, preparations are in full swing for celebrations at the Senior Center.
On Sept. 15, at 1 p.m., the Senior Center will host an event featuring speakers, music and food to commemorate the milestone.
Senior Center Director Marcia Zaniboni said the anniversary is an occasion for celebrating how far opportunities for seniors in Pepperell have progressed over the last decade.
"We've more than doubled our participation since the building opened and probably tripled or quadrupled what we offer," Zaniboni said.
Before the building opened in 2003, Zaniboni said, the Council on Aging hosted activities for seniors a few times a week in various locations. Opening the Senior Center allowed the council to offer more activities and serve more seniors.
"We used to host line-dancing, exercise and lunch, each once a week," she said. "Now we have art, yoga, Zumba, a computer room. It's always busy around here."
Zaniboni said that over the last decade, the makeup of Pepperell's senior community has changed just as much as the center.
The senior population in town has grown 65 percent from 2000 to 2010, she said, and the average age has decreased as well, making for an active group.
"We have a younger group and a lot more men, which is great because men tend to be more socially isolated," she said.
About 800 of Pepperell's 2,000 seniors come to events at the center every year, according to Zaniboni.
"Pepperell's always had a good group of seniors. We do things here that they don't do in other towns because they don't get enough participation," she said.
Virginia Spinney, volunteer coordinator, called the growth in the Senior Center over the past 10 years "remarkable."
"People don't understand the social benefit," Spinney said, encouraging seniors to participate in such activities as Zumba and other exercise classes.
Activity coordinator Susan McCarthy said the opportunity to interact with people is just as important as the activities the Senior Center offers.
"There are people who just come in to have a cup of coffee with friends or meet someone for a meal," McCarthy said.
Zaniboni said she expects a few hundred people to attend the anniversary ceremony, and that many seniors are excited about the event.
"They have a lot more ownership because they were so involved in the building process that they really feel like this is their center," she said.
"We're committed to focusing on the positive and all the good we do and the staff continues to do," she said. "Our goal is to help the greatest number of seniors possible and be open to what their needs are.
"It's a great place. I love this town, I love the seniors and I love the center."