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Senior center offers activities to keep mind, spirit active

Photo by Cassandra Favre Many of the senior citizens at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County enjoy playing cards with their friends. Along with cards, participants enjoy karaoke and line dancing as well.

Photo by Cassandra Favre
Many of the senior citizens at the Senior Center of South Pearl River County enjoy playing cards with their friends. Along with cards, participants enjoy karaoke and line dancing as well.

Growing older isn’t easy; long-time spouses and friends pass away, good health is sometimes hard to come by and the realization sets in that one’s youth has come and gone.

However, just because one is a senior citizen does not mean the good times are over.

The Senior Center of South Pearl River County in Picayune provides an environment where senior citizens gather to socialize, laugh and even sing karaoke.

The senior center was founded in 1995 by the local AARP, Executive Director Darlene Adams said. It was located in Picayune in a very small house.

“Soon the center outgrew the small house,” Adams said. “And former Mississippi Senator Wootsie Tate, along with a group of volunteers, secured grants and land in order to build the current facility.”

Adams said the facility currently has about 300 participants.

Some come just for planned activities and others return everyday for the socialization, Adams said.

According to an article on holidaytouch.com, research studies have concluded that an active social lifestyle is instrumental for seniors to maintain a sharp mind, connection to the world around them, increase feelings of happiness and a sense of belonging.

The center is 501(c)(3) non-profit and receives its funding through donations and fundraisers, Adams said. The center also receives donations from the city, county and local businesses.

Adams said the center operates on a yearly budget of about $140,000 and 72 percent of those funds are obtained through fundraising efforts.

The center has a grant-funded congregate meal program, Adams said. The food arrives prepared and is warmed and served by the facility’s staff.

There are currently about 50 people who eat lunch at the center, Adams. Each participant is required to complete a government screening which identifies any needs the senior might have.

“The majority of their income is used to pay for medicine and medical bills,” Adams said.

The center also offers a wide variety of monthly activities including, line dancing, senior fitness, Spanish class, painting, karaoke, sewing class and woodcarving, Adams said.

The center is handicapped accessible and offers a grant-funded bus service to transport seniors who are restricted to wheelchairs, Adams said.

There is no medical staff on site, Adams said. Each participant must be able to take care of his or her own needs.

Luke and Geri Lisotta have been married for 57 years and have been center participants for about 10 years.

“We love to line dance and Luke loves to play cards,” Geri said. “I also enjoy singing karaoke. We laugh, we sing, we play games and most importantly socialize and keep active.”

Luke said the couple has met friendly people at the center.

Seventy-seven-year-old Nelson Huber recently moved to Pearl River County and has been a regular participant for about eight months.

“It’s something to do and it gets me out of the house,” Huber said. “I’ve met some great people and we have good times. It’s a real good thing for this community.”

Eighty-two-year-old John Sparcello has been coming to the center for about three years and enjoys meeting all the wonderful participants, playing bingo and horseshoes and most of all having fun.

“As director, I have seen the faces of seniors come in that lost a spouse and friends and have given up,” Adam said. “It’s a blessing to see them come out of their shells. I enjoy the laughter and am so blessed to see this center making a difference in Pearl River County.”

The center is located at 45 El Patch Parkway, which is off of Frontage Road behind Wal-Mart.

The center’s hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The center is open to adults ages 50 and better,” Adams said.

To learn more about the center, call 601-798-9892.

Learn more about senior citizen health by visiting the National Council of Aging’s website at www.ncoa.org.