When your senior center hosts 200 partygoers on a Friday night, when most of them are drinking microbrews, and when about half of them are under 35…maybe it’s time to redefine the idea of a “senior center.”
The Greenwood Senior Center—a boxy, linoleum-floored space operated by the Phinney Neighborhood Association—struck gold four years ago when it launched its monthly Bingo Karaoke fundraiser. Inspired by gay-bingo events for AIDS awareness, Greenwood staffers added the karaoke twist. They were pleasantly surprised when twenty- and thirtysomethings started a run on tickets you’d expect for a KeyArena concert.
Folks sure aren’t here for the food; on a Friday night in December, the entryway has the ballpark aroma of popcorn, and the kitchen dishes out $3 Tater Tot Boats. In the beer line, players juggle their daubers, inky wands used to mark bingo cards.
Paul Villa and seven friends, ages 25 to 45, cram around a table in folding chairs. “I thought, That’s something different to do on a Friday night than our usual routine,” he says—namely bar hopping on Capitol Hill, where Villa owns the Lobby Bar.
Five feet away, Rick Leary stands at a table topped with a red disposable tablecloth and a delicate marzipan birthday cake from Nielsen’s Pastries. He’s here for his 70th birthday party. “It was her idea,” he says, pointing to his daughter, who held her own 32nd birthday bash here.
The young woman who yells “Bingo!” on tonight’s first round earns a chorus of good-natured boos, a shower of everyone else’s crumbled bingo cards, and $30. Karaoke begins, with songs wedged between rounds to keep up the night’s frantic pace.
In 2010, 10.9 percent of King County was over age 65; in 20 years, that number will nearly double. And with a widening gulf between how a 65-year-old has fun and a 95-year-old relaxes, senior programming is being redefined. Besides the booze-heavy bingo karaoke, Greenwood Senior Center recently hosted a lecture series on cannabis.
At Villa’s table, no one’s thinking about cross-generation socializing. The group gets so rowdy that the karaoke wrangler leans over to say, “You guys are fun!” Villa’s friend Caleb wins the night’s biggest jackpot, $383, and they all make plans to return next month. Then it’s time for another bingo round and the players toast—with their inky daubers, not their drinks.