The Columbus Area Senior Center received some good news recently when it earned accreditation from the Wisconsin Association of Senior Centers.

The senior center, located at 125 N. Dickason Blvd., received the accreditation in October. Director Kim Lang said being accredited means the center is being held to the highest standards set forth by the National Institute of Senior Centers. The state association adopted those standards in 1987 for centers throughout Wisconsin.

“They have nine areas they review us in and they make sure we have appropriate processes and procedures for accounts, fundraising and maintenance for the building,” Lang said. “But they go even further than that by making sure our seniors are part of the community and engaged; making sure we’re finding plenty of resources for folks who come in.

It makes us make sure we’re doing things that are good for our seniors and making sure they have a friendly, safe environment and we’re offering programs and activities that are engaging them and keeping them active and involved in their senior years.”

Receiving state accreditation also helps the center with fundraising and grant opportunities. In addition, it allows city officials to visualize what the center does on a daily basis.

Lang follows an accreditation manual that is more than 300-pages thick. It has nine sections and the center has to follow a series of questions to maintain accreditation standards. The accreditation review process includes feedback from staff, participants, volunteers, and various community members. After the center completes its self-assessment, a committee with the Wisconsin Association of Senior Centers conducts a peer review. Lang said the self-assessment takes place every five years and the center last earned accreditation seven years ago.

To honor its accreditation status, the center received a plaque from the state organization in October.

The center opened in 1979 and serves many seniors in the Columbus-Fall River area. Since it’s the only senior facility in the county, Lang said the center attracts seniors from smaller, surrounding communities such as Rio, Beaver Dam, Sun Prairie and Marshall.

Before it was transformed into a senior center, the building was a restoration garage for Model-T cars. Since becoming a senior center, the building expanded to include the Columbus-Fall River Food Pantry.

“It’s an old building,” Lang said. “But it works out really well for us.”

As the senior population continues to grow, demands for new programs at senior centers are on the rise. Since becoming director almost two years ago, Lang has tried to implement additional programs to attract more people age 50 and older to the facility. The center serves more than 600 seniors annually throughout the Columbus area.

“Traditional senior centers have a lot more social activities like bingo and card games, and we still have that but we also have exercise classes too,” Lang said. “We have a fitness center that is only about three years old with all new equipment and we expanded our hours so seniors who do still work can work out earlier in the morning.”

The center is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The center is also open on Saturdays from November – April from 6-9 a.m.

Seniors at the center have access to computer and educational classes, AARP tax preparation specialists, health insurance benefit specialists, and handles senior’s inquiries about Columbus. The center also participates in the county meal program, delivering meals to homebound seniors. It is also available for rent in the evenings and weekends for private parties and events. Overall, the facility hosts about 125 programs every month.

In the future, Lang said the center plans to look at new technology innovations to keep seniors engaged. Through a donation, the center plans to install a Smart TV that will allow the center to connect with other senior centers through Skype. Seniors will be able to interact without being together at the same place.

“We’re working hard to keep it going and keep people coming in,” Lang said. “We have a lot of people who volunteer and are involved in the community and we want to keep bringing those programs to people.”

Contact Kevin Damask at 608-963-7323 or on Twitter @kdamask