Ann Henderson was 46 years old when she started a drop-in center for senior citizens in East Elmhurst in 1972.
More than three decades later, she’s now of the age where she could also be a client.
“I’m as old as anybody in here,” said Henderson, who has lived in East Elmhurst for the past 53 years. “But I have the young old, the middle old and the old old.”
At 77, she failed to say where she fits into the hierarchy.
But maybe that’s because she’s at the top, still serving as director of the Seniors Citizens Center she founded with Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities, Inc.
Henderson started operating the center with a modest five members when she began volunteering in her spare time after her children had entered high school or college.
“I developed a senior center from scratch,” Emerson said, not really boasting so much as stating the facts. “I saw a need for it. They didn’t have one in this community.”
When a sudden $5,000 grant from the Department for the Aging came through, she was able to buy equipment like chairs and a pool table, but without a permanent home she had no place to put them.
She eventually teamed up with Elmcor, which served as the sponsoring agency, and secured funding to purchase a former drug store building at 98-19 Astoria Blvd. to house the center.
In the meantime, she went back to school, earning her master’s degree in gerontology from the New School in 1982.
Even then, everyone knew who was boss.
“When Ann Henderson spoke, because she had had the experience the instructors always shut up,” she said. “They should have been paying me instead of me paying them.”