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One of nation's earliest senior centers marks 50 years in Utah

Published July 11, 2013 7:53 pm

Music • Dancing, drama always a part of Tenth East.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Tenth East Senior Center, Utah's first and one of the earliest in the country, is celebrating its 50th anniversary Thursday with — no surprise — music.

Music and dancing have always been big at the center, and though many devotees of Big Band music are now gone, the center still has dancing twice a week with live bands.

The Sax Machine and Glow take turns playing on Wednesdays and the Fred Edwards Quartet plays every Friday.

"You're never too old to dance," said Mary Martinez, who visits the center twice weekly. "If nobody asks me, I go out by myself."

Tenth East no longer has the band that was its trademark: the Happy-Go-Luckies harmonica band, which thrived from the mid-1960s until just a few years ago.

One of the band regulars — indeed, the main leader until he was over 100 — was Rulon Swenson, who died several years ago.

"He was there for 40 years," says his daughter, Lynne Whitt, who is in the band that is performing at the 50th anniversary party, "Harmony Five." The band is based in Taylorsville, but won a Still Got Talent contest at Tenth East last winter.

The anniversary event gets underway at 10:30 a.m. with music, followed by speeches at 11:30 a.m. and a noon banquet.

Tenth East serves mostly seniors — anyone age 60 and older — who live near the University of Utah, downtown and in the Avenues. "But people come from all over the valley," says John Bennett, its director.

A senior recreation program began in the neighborhood in 1955, and demand grew enough that the Tenth East Senior Center opened on July 11, 1963.

The Older Americans Act in 1965, pushed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, mandated that every county in the United States have a program for older Americans and that fueled big growth in the number of senior centers, Bennett said.

Today, there are 19 senior centers in the Salt Lake Valley, managed by Salt Lake County Aging Services.

Nationally, nearly 11,000 senior centers serve 1 million older adults every day, according to the National Council on Aging.

kmoulton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @KristenMoulton —

Happy 50th birthday

The Tenth East Senior Center, 237 South 1000 East, celebrates its 50th anniversary beginning at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Speeches are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and a banquet is set for noon.