GU making local seniors ‘Masters of Aging’

Dear Editor,

September is National Senior Center Month and the theme is Masters of Aging. Generations Unlimited operates the Gayle Reyes Senior Center in Barnwell and the Golden Retreat Activity Center in Blackville. We are taking this opportunity to celebrate our seniors and the programs that support them and make them Masters of Aging. In addition, we want to share our stories and encourage advocacy of community partners to ensure that funding is allocated for continued nutrition programs for seniors.

Many seniors struggle to get by on a fixed income and are only one life event away from a financial crisis. Based on data cited at the National Council on Aging website (NCOA.org) six million older adults face the threat of hunger. Our senior centers serve as the focal point in our community for senior services. One of the most important aspects is the assurance of a hot, nutritious meal at no cost to those older adults who are living with food insecurity.

Our programs are funded through the Older Americans Act (OAA) on the federal level and state levels. These funds are supplemented on the local level by County Council, United Way, fundraisers and private donations. Older Americans Act funding and funding for other benefits for older adults are under threat in the national FY 18 budget process. Seniors and their caregivers could be affected in a negative way if proposed budget cuts are realized. You can help through contacting your representative while Congress is on recess to request support for continued funding for senior programs. They will be on recess through September 24, October 6-22 and November 17-27.

Our senior centers provide programs and activities that help older adults take positive actions to improve their health, mental health, financial status and overall well-being. Through our services, seniors are socially connected with others; participate in evidenced based exercise programs that improve their overall physical health and improve balance; receive training in nutrition education and a variety of other topics; enjoy recreational outings; engage in financial educational programs; and have a nutritious meal daily. BINGO is a favored activity and is a regular part of our schedule.

Examples of activities planned for next month include a week of activities and learning events about Oktoberfest, culminating in an Oktoberfest party on Friday, October 6 in Blackville; a trip to the State Fare; Nutrition Training; Arthritis Exercise; BINGO; and crafts making pumpkins out of Mason jar tops. November plans include a new class in Tai Chi and apple picking in the upper part of the state. Our goal is to promote health, good nutrition and social engagement to help seniors age successfully in place and to become Masters of Aging.

The other Masters of Aging are the staff that work so diligently to make our programs in Barnwell and Blackville a success. Mary Stroman works primarily in Barnwell and serves as the Supervisor of senior programs. We have just recently hire Vennita Walker who is the Nutrition Site Assistant in Blackville. Both individuals share a love for older adults and a passion for our mission.

We also want to thank the community for the support we receive from volunteers, donations and community partners. For example, the Blackville School district has continued to partner with us by letting us use a building which we have dubbed the Golden Retreat Activity Center. This has allowed us to serve a previously underserved population of seniors in Blackville. Barnwell County Council helps us with funding and in-kind contributions. Pruitt Health provides volunteer staff to deliver home delivered meals once a week. Various Pastors conduct weekly bible study classes and one Pastor, Mr. Ron Franklin, also delivers meals for us twice a week. One volunteer in Blackville, Mr. Ponell Jones, delivers meals five days a week to Blackville seniors who are homebound.

We will be sharing our senior stories to highlight what our senior centers mean to them on Facebook at Gail Reyes Senior Center and Blackville Senior Center. Please follow us and discover what our seniors are saying. We would also like to invite you to visit our senior centers to engage in a meaningful way through volunteer opportunities.

These two senior centers are a shining example of community engagement and support to promote our Masters of Aging.

Lisa Firmender,

Executive Director

Generations Unlimited