Atascadero’s Senior Citizens United marks 50 years

By L.W. Allan

ATASCADERO — Fifty years is a significant measure of time. That is true whether it is a business, a service club’s presence in the community, a marriage, and more.

An organization aimed at support for senior citizens is celebrating a half-century of success here in Atascadero, still headquartered on the bank of Atascadero Creek in the heart of downtown.

Senior Citizens United was formed in the summer of 1973 and incorporated the next year — 1974. The purpose of the group was to provide certain necessary services to the elderly residents of not only Atascadero, but those residing inGarden Farms, Santa Margarita, and Templeton. Membership was a whopping $4 a year.


In that first year, the organization was serving 25 people a week at a local restaurant as well as delivering 70 meals, all delivered by volunteers using their own vehicles. There was a federal grant available in those early days to pay a site manager. It wasn’t long before the organization was providing renters and homeowners assistance, property tax postponement, and simple state and federal income tax preparation.

Initially the newly formed nonprofit operated out of a small office on Traffic Way, but briefly occupied an empty fast-food restaurant on El Camino Real for a brief period until another drive-in wanted the facility.

The search for a permanent home resulted in the modest single-family residence at 5905 East Mall in the Fall of 1976. It would eventually be the Ed Hagen Center. The name is still on a bronze plaque on the wall near the door. 

There was no Atascadero City Council yet. The County Board of Supervisors okayed a revenue sharing grant in the amount of $43,000. That covered more than one-half the price of $70,000. The founding board members favored the location because it was in the middle of downtown, close to the post office, banks, doctors, and county health and welfare offices located in the county-owned City Hall. A medical lab was located in the downtown, basically across the Sunken Gardens from the senior office. 

The senior center was soon embraced by the community as state and federal grants became available to help with expenses. A final payment on the house was made in 1983 by Hilda Fullwiler, the original owner of the modest home. For a brief period the house served as a doctor’s office before serving local seniors.

Contributions big and small helped support the fledgling senior center while Senior Citizens United was a vital part of the non-incorporated city. It joined the Chamber of Commerce and had a vital voice on the Atascadero Advisory Committee, a precursor to the City Council that was approved by the local voters in 1979. It had a Salvation Army Service Unit and the North County Women’s Shelter took root in a small office at the senior center before moving into its own space. 

It wasn’t long until the center had a small kitchen in which to prepare meals and a dining room was added to the mix. Grants large and small came from individuals, and government and non-government entities. A number of service clubs have done work projects on site such as painting the building inside and out, paving the driveway and most recently a complete rebuild of the kitchen by Atascadero Kiwanis Club. Meals That Connect and Senior Nutrition of San Luis Obispo County do provide meals for our seniors.

Today the center is stronger than ever. Membership in the senior organization is a modest $10 a year. By the way, there is no age limit. 

During the week you can drop by between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to borrow medical equipment like canes and walkers, books, puzzles, DVDs, CDs, and more. WiFi is available and there is a game room for your small-group meeting.

For those wanting to participate in addressing current matters, they can join the Socrates Club led by Carol Benton.You’ll find some informative conversations on issues on the second and fourth Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. Other activities include bunco, T’ai Chi Chih, cribbage, and more.

And just as it was in the beginning, the Senior Center needs volunteer leaders. You can pretty well choose what kind of activity you would like to offer.

This overlooked treasure and its directors are anxious to see where the next half-century takes them. The Senior Center has reason to be proud of what it started. It has three very large scrapbooks that bear testimony to how much the community has supported it over the past 50 years.

If you need additional information, call the Senior Center at (805) 466-4674.

Featured Image: Senior Citizens United’s Senior Center has been at is current location at 5905 East Mall in Atascadero since the Fall of 1976. Senior Citizens United is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Photo by Lon Allan