OKC Healthy Living Centers Create Vibrant Atmosphere for Older Adults

At the Oklahoma City Healthy Living Center at 11501 N. Rockwell, members are whittling large pieces of wood in the corner of the lobby. In the group fitness room down the hall, ladies are swaying their hips as they learn to belly dance or are finding their zen in downward facing dog poses in yoga classes.

A fierce basketball game is underway in the gym, and in other rooms, men and women alike are painting, working on pottery, using leatherworking tools or rehearsing for a play. The walking group is lacing up their sneakers while music plays in the line dancing class.

Welcome to the new face of aging. Long gone are the days of just bingo and bridge; today’s senior citizens are more active than ever, and the new Healthy Living Center OKC, funded through the city’s MAPS 3 tax initiative, is changing the stereotypes of what being older is.

“This is adult wellness center for adults age 50 and older. We offer a variety of opportunities for engagement, whether that’s through physical activity, our arts and other creative forms of expression or through just social connectedness in general,” says Claire Dowers-Nichols, executive director.

“One of the important components of what we do is provide a forum for people to connect with one another. We have everything from group fitness classes to opportunities to work with personal trainers. We have nine different personal trainers that work out of here, a full aquatics classes, art classes, drama classes.”

The center is also home to interest groups like birdwatchers, walkers, jewelry designers and book clubs.

“I hear stories all the time like, ‘My son made me join this after my wife died because he was afraid of me being alone, and this place has saved my life.’ I’ve heard one member say that she was thinking of checking out but now she comes here every day and sells her art online,” Claire says. “We have seen people walk in the door in survival mode, and after being here awhile, they’re really thriving and discovering they can learn new things.”

When the center opened in March 2017, it had a goal to have 2,000 members in two years. By the end of the year, membership hit 4,000 and now sits at 5,500. The center is so popular that the Oklahoma City Council is considering expansion plans for the 42,000-square-foot facility already.

A second MAPS 3 Healthy Living Center opened in May in Capitol Hill, and two more are in the works.  

“We’ve added an average of 200 members a month so far this year,” Claire says. “I have said for a long time we have to get beyond bingo. Older adults want new, exciting things because they are not slowing down. They’re not stopping.”

Day passes and tours of Healthy Living OKC are offered to people considering joining.

 “I think it’s an exciting time to be in this field because aging is changing. I think the MAPS 3 centers have a great opportunity to redefine how aging looks, how services are offered, how older adults are reached and how to break that stereotype. It’s impressive when we have 90-year-old bodybuilders that show up in the mornings and pump more weights than I weigh,” Claire says.

After the first free visit, members can join for either $10 a day or $30 for a monthly pass with no contract. Sliding fees are available as well, and some insurance plans cover part of the fee.

For more information on membership or services, call 405.773.6910 or visit HealthyLivingOKC.com.