Loneliness. It’s the No. 1 issue senior adults struggle with, according to Liberty County Senior Activity Center site manager Chrislene Taylor.
“Fighting loneliness is the chief complaint of many seniors,” Taylor said, explaining that loneliness can be the result of children being grown and gone or simply missing spouses, siblings and friends who’ve already passed away. “Having a place like the senior center is like home to many of our seniors. They’re very welcoming to new people. They really care about each other. In fact, they act like brothers and sisters.”
Taylor said the center is open to seniors 60 and older who have no history ofdementia. Although the center does have an adult day care, for the most part, Taylor’s too understaffed to watch after special-needs seniors while she facilitates the daily activities of 25 to 30 other attendees.
“They’ve got to be spunky,” she said, smiling. “They’ve got to want to taste the flavor and be willing to participate in activities. We want seniors who care about themselves and others.”
The center, which is open from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday, serves a “Meals on Wheels” lunch provided by Senior Citizens Inc. of Savannah.
Taylor said the balanced and nutritious meals are valued at $16 each. The weekly menu is handwritten on a dry-erase board large enough for older eyes to easily read, but a monthly menu printout is available.
Lunch items include dishes like pepper steak, which the site manager described as “melt in your mouth,” and honey dijon chicken, which she said tastes a lot like KFC’s original recipe. Taylor said that if seniors call at least one day ahead of time, they can bring guests. A $5 payment is required for the guest’s meal.
Some daily activities include crafts like sewing, knitting, quilting or making Valentine’s Day cards and decorations, she said. Some seniors stricken with arthritis no longer can participate in craft-making but are able to teach and help others.
Taylor said hands-on games, stretching and exercise programs also are provided, along with a mile-long walking trail that runs by the senior center, the Shuman Center and the James Brown Park athletic fields. There is a large patio on the backside of the building, but it’s empty right now. She’s hoping a church, business or civic organizations will donate outdoor tables, chairs, rockers and benches for the patio.
Quality of life classes are regularly taught at the center. One class, “chronic disease self-management,” taught by the Learning Center of Senior Citizens Inc., has helped several of her seniors learn how to cope with aging and chronic pain.
“Instead of saying, ‘I hurt too bad to do anything,’ by the end of the six weeks-long class, many were saying, ‘I kinda hurt, but now I don’t mind,’” Taylor said. They learned how to set personal goals, how to deal with depression and be more self-confident, she said. The class already has been taught twice at the center and can be taught in local churches, she added.
The center provides or coordinates transportation for seniors to Walmart and for monthly outings to produce stands, meat markets and discount stores. Soldiers from Fort Stewart participate in what’s called “A night with Grandma,” in which they visit, talk and interact with seniors at the center. Recently, soldiers celebrated the center’s “senior-most senior,” who everyone calls “Mom.” Taylor described the 95-year-old as “spunkier” than all the other seniors. The soldiers lifted Mom high in her rocking chair as though she were queen for the day.
Taylor said organizations like the Girl Scouts, businesses and churches often donate supplies like tissue paper or paper towels. Larger items, such as the outdoor furniture, also are appreciated. Seniors who are healthy enough are even given free flu shots. Taylor makes sure the family is aware of it before giving the shot, which is overseen by an on-staff nurse.
“Please understand I’m very protective of my seniors,” Taylor said. “I believe in hugging, and I’m very close to them. I have children’s phone numbers, and I don’t hesitate to call when I think one of my seniors has a problem. And as I said, they watch out for each other, too. They tell each other about scammers who target senior adults.”
Seniors who are interested in taking part in activities at the Liberty County Senior Activity Center or those interested in donating funds, furniture or supplies can call Taylor at 432-4930.