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SENIOR COLUMN: Senior centers adapt to the times

National Senior Center Month is celebrated every September. This recognition gives all communities an opportunity to celebrate Senior Centers and the work they do in enriching and
extending the lives of its older adult citizens.

The Stanly County Senior Center opened 34 years ago in 1986 and through the years it has made changes that enabled us to continue enhancing lives and serving older adults.

The Senior Center has always offered a variety of classes and activities over the past 34 years, adjusting and changing according to what seniors want. We have strived to be open and receptive to new programs and classes that the seniors of 2020 desired which were often different from the seniors of 1986.

A great example of this is our fitness and exercise classes.

The Senior Center has always offered activities that promote health and well-being, but seniors now are wanting more classes with a variety such as Yoga, Chair Yoga and Tai Chi. Seniors today are also ready to participate in outdoor activities and so we have taken a few of our activities outside and are offering kayaking and hiking. We have also expanded our fitness and exercise activities to the classrooms and are offering 4- to 8-week classes that promote healthy living and disease prevention such as Living Healthy, Living Healthy with Diabetes, Living Health with Chronic Pain and Matter of Balance. These classes are held at various times throughout the year.

Words such as iPhone, iPad and tablet were unheard on in the 1980s but now are common words, with instructional classes being taught since seniors want to stay connected to family and friends.

The term “caregiving” today is a household word and is finally getting the attention and respect that it deserves for those that are caring for a loved one. We offer classes, videos and even have an annual Caregiver Fair, called CareFest, to help those who are handling this 24/7 job at home.

With our county having a high aging population, we began hosting an annual birthday party for those 90 years old and older. This party is well attended, with approximately 75-100 over age 90 present. It is a highlight for many of these senior adults.

In the early 2000s the state developed a Senior Center Certification program to recognize the importance of Senior Centers and the role that they serve in each community. This certification set high standards for best practices in services, programs, professional development, advocacy
and leadership for Senior Centers in the state.

We are proud that the Stanly County Senior Center has been certified as a NC Senior Center of Excellence (which is the highest level of certification) since 2007. The Stanly County commissioners recognized the increasing number of older adults in the county and a satellite Senior Center was established in 2018 in Locust. The West Stanly Senior Center offers additional activities and opportunities for all seniors, especially those in the western part of the county.

The Senior Center building has expanded with the renovation of two new rooms that are used daily. One classroom was funded through the Friends of the Senior Center and the other through a donation from Tom and Jean Rabe. We are expanding the area behind the Senior Center as well and will hopefully have a landscaped backyard and patio for outdoor programming in the very near future.

Of course, many programs and classes have withstood the test of time and continue to be offered here. As long as there is interest, classes such as bridge, basket weaving, woodcarving, crafts, knitting, etc. will continue to be a part of our programming.

With the changes that the Senior Center has had through the years, the one thing that has not changed is our mission. It has remained the same since the day we opened, which is “to enhance the quality of life of older adults with a high quality of services, programs and activities.”

The Stanly County Senior Center and West Stanly Senior Center provide a vital connection to seniors in the community by keeping them connected, active and engaged. Both senior centers look forward to many more years of providing services to seniors while we change with the times and the desires and wants of the seniors in the 21st century.

Becky Weemhoff has been director of Stanly County Senior Services since 2003.