By Judy Wakefield
---- — The late Rex Trailer made a career out of the moniker “Boomtown” — his Boston-based, hit cowboy-themed TV show for youngsters that ran for 18 years.
Move over Rex! Andover has its own “Boomtown,” of sorts, as its hip BoomerVenture campus at the Center at Punchard turns 5 this month.
Appropriately, September is Senior Center Month and who better than Andover boomers who grew up with Trailer in the 1950s and ‘60s to headline this week’s anniversary party on Thursday, Sept. 12, from 5 to 9 p.m.?
Boomers ages 50 to 60 now make up about 20 percent — or one in six — of Andover’s residents, according to Kathy Urquhart, director of the Center at Punchard. Urquhart said one-third of residents are now 50-plus. What’s more is they’re quite active.
The senior center has been revamped in recent years to cater to that growing population, she said.
“We are not your grandmother’s senior center,” Urquhart said. “We are a very active center.”
In fact, the senior center changed its name to the Center at Punchard last year to appropriately reflect Andover’s hipper, fast-growing older population.
“They are not grannies sitting in rocking chairs by any means,” Urquhart said.
BoomerVenture was founded as a result of the town’s over-50 growth.
“We are here for them ... there’s no better place to find the adventure they are looking for than their own backyards,” Karen Payne-Taylor, BoomerVenture director, said.
Payne-Taylor is a walking advertisement for the program. She looks much younger than her boomer age, which she prefers not to share. Plus, she’s a grown-up punk rocker — classically trained — who has been hitting local music venues and sharing the stage with her acoustic guitar-playing husband, Chris. They performed last weekend at Andover Day.
It’s a revival for the couple, who live on Summer Street. Like so many boomers in town, they saw their only child, daughter Zoe, went away to college. All of a sudden, they had lots of free time and wanted to do something together.
Band memories from their early years together resurfaced. Fellow workers were the most encouraging as they told Payne-Taylor to “go for it,” she said.
“This was the place that pushed me,” Payne-Taylor said. “I’m having a ball and I’m grateful (to BoomerVenture). That’s the environment we have here ... you are never too old.”
For Denise Boucher, 55, of Andover, BoomerVenture programs have been informative and interesting. A personal trainer who also teaches aqua exercise classes at the YMCA, she founded the popular Nordic walking course offered at BoomerVenture and also volunteers with the Women’s Outdoor Adventures Club.
“Most of us want to stay active,” Boucher said of her generation. “BoomerVenture lets us.”
Boucher, who finds herself sandwiched between a 12-year-old daughter and widowed mother living in an assisted-living facility, said BoomerVenture participants also tend to share their family life stories, which she said helped her a lot when her mother relocated to North Andover.
Kate Sumberg, 58, of Andover, walks to the center for exercise class three times a week.
She couldn’t say that a few years ago when illness slowed her down and she found herself walking slower than her 88-year-old mother. That’s when Sumberg turned to BoomerVenture. She has been enrolled in exercise classes since its founding.
“It’s better than a gym,” she said. “BoomerVenture instilled my exercise routine ... that’s been great for me. Plus it’s fun. ... I’m so glad BoomerVenture is offered.”