Believing that the current one-room space in Traditions won't fit its long-term need, the Council on Aging surveyed more than 5,000 elderly Dedham residents to find out what they want in a senior center.
More than 20 percent - about 1,200 surveys - were returned.
Eighty-two percent of respondents said they would participate in exercise classes - some of which the senior center currently offers. That figure included more than 600 who would sign up for classes at Dedham Health and Athletic, according to the survey released last week.
"We are confident that results of the survey will be helpful in opening up ongoing dialogue and collaboration between elected, appointed officials and residents of the town," said Leanne Jasset, Council on Aging board member.
The survey concluded, "the large number of responses to the survey indicates that Dedham elders want a senior center. [...] The results of the survey clearly point to a different kind of space than what is currently occupied by the COA."
"If you hit the road with this, you will make [people] see beyond the numbers," selectman Carmen Dello Iacono said. "Don't let it become just a document. Actually make it work. Use it as a tool."
On the heels of a failed bid in 2008 to sell voters on a building a new senior center, advocates are focusing on what seniors want to happen within the walls of a building, rather than the building itself.
"When you talk about four walls and a roof, it is really about what goes on inside that building," Town Administrator William Keegan said. "We really didn't focus [in 2008] on the important piece of what that building would serve."
Many elderly see the senior center as a lifeline to a growing technological world as 84 percent of respondents said they wanted to have a computer class at the center, and more than 600 said they'd use the center for computer access.
As the Council on Aging works toward building a "state of the art senior center," board members said they will work to increase participation and use the study to evaluate current programming.
The survey concluded with a short essay question that asked why elders believed Dedham should have a senior center - instead of one room.
One answer stated, "All towns should have support and social netowrking for seniors - it's a cold world when you're alone."
Editor's note: The full report is attached to this article on the right.