Senior Center membership highest in state

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Spalding County Senior Center has achieved distinction by reaching the highest membership level of any Senior Center in the state of Georgia.
Senior Center Supervisor Jo Ellis said that translates to just under 1,500 individual registered members.
“I had predicted we’d hit 1,500 to 2,000,” Ellis said. “Some didn’t believe it, but I knew it would happen, though, because the need is there.”
Recreation Superintendent Kelly Leger said the membership count is far from the only significant number associated with the Senior Center.
She explained that the Senior Center monitors activity check ins and she cited that number at nearly 1,000 weekly, a number comprised by approximately 400 individual members attending the Parks and Recreation facility.
“We have a citizen that comes to the Center every day, and he walks and shares his testimony, and that is that the Senior Center saved his life,” Leger said.
That is not an isolated story, she said.
“Without this place, a lot of people wouldn’t know how to connect with others. I’ve heard so many people say the Senior Center saved their lives, especially after the death of a loved one,” she said. “It gives them a place to go where they can meet people, share a meal, take trips and enjoy social activities like seeing a play – doing things that have been on their bucket list. They love the fitness-related activities; they love the social and educational programs. I would say every inch of that building is enjoyed. Anyone who thinks it’s too big or not being used needs to take another look.”
Ellis said the additional space the Senior Center provides is one of its greatest benefits over the previous location.
“At the old center, we were bumping into each other. We’d have people waiting for a room while another class was going on,” she said. “That’s not a problem now.”
The additional space is well utilized by the growing membership.
“We’ve got probably 150 to 200 members who don’t even live in Spalding County. I even have some from Henry and Clayton counties because we offer programming they don’t there. The number of seniors is only going to grow, and they’ll be looking for things to do,” she said. “It was the Baby Boomer generation that really began to think more about their health for the long haul and that’s carried on,” she said. “When I think of my grandparents, they pretty much stayed in the house or on the front porch, but the generation now, they’re just rewriting it all – they’re redefining what it means to be a senior, to be a grandma or grandpa. Even the folks that are 70 to 80 aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.”
Fun, fitness and fellowship – Ellis said this is the Senior Center motto that is fulfilled daily, and that being a part of that is a blessing.
“I really feel that we have one of the best Senior Centers in the nation. We are just so blessed to have leaders that fought for this, supported this and backed us,” said Ellis, who also credits the Senior Center with saving her own life. “I’m a five-year stage 4 (throat) cancer survivor, and I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my members. Everybody has a story to tell. It takes a lot of guts to grow old.” Ω

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