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Gene Paris

Gene Paris evaluates his hand while playing cards Wednesday at Baraboo's senior center.

BEN BROMLEY/News Republic

Baraboo’s senior center is turning to public input as it charts its course for the future.

The Baraboo Area Senior Citizen Organization released a survey last week to find out what members — and non-members — think it could do to improve programming. By finding out what seniors like, and what they wish the center would offer, BASCO leaders hope to better target their efforts.

“We really want to make BASCO all things for all older adults,” Director Diane Pillsbury said.

Located inside the Baraboo Civic Center, BASCO is one of Wisconsin’s smallest senior centers, serving 300 members. Its Strategic Planning Committee decided issuing a survey would help the center develop programs that meet demand, thus boosting membership.

“The goal of a senior center is to focus in on what people want,” President Marlen Buchanan said.

The center offers a wide range of activities, from tai chi classes to educational programs on local history to day trips. Card games are always popular, but senior center leaders are finding that baby boomers also are interested in educational programs on wellness and technology. “The baby boomers are bringing a certain sense of sophistication,” Pillsbury said.

The survey is available online and hard copies are being distributed to several sites, including the senior center and Baraboo’s library. Everyone in the public, including those who aren’t yet seniors, are welcome to respond by June 30. “It’s open to everybody because we have to anticipate people coming up in the ranks,” Pillsbury said.

In addition to gauging interest on various types of programs already offered, the survey invites respondents to suggest new ones. “We’d like to know what we’re missing out on,” Pillsbury said.

It also asks more general questions about senior centers, such as whether senior centers offer value to the community, and what obstacles discourage people from participating in programs. “We wanted to evaluate what the community perception of BASCO is,” Buchanan said.

Once the results are in, the Strategic Planning Committee will present them to the BASCO board and develop a corresponding action plan.

The center faces three limitations: space, as it occupies only two rooms in the Civic Center; hours, as it’ s open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; and money, as it charges only $25 for memberships.

The idea to issue a survey came out of the Strategic Planning Committee’s effort to set priorities for the future. Assignments have been made, and deadlines set.

“It helped us to organize better how we function and see a bigger picture,” Pillsbury said. “It gave us a good direction.”

Now the center’s leaders want an external evaluation to complement their internal efforts.

“People realize we’re trying to provide a lot of different things,” Pillsbury said. “I need to hear from the community what they want.”

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley