Active seniors looking for a safe, healthy and fun place to spend time instead of money may want to look no farther than the Liberty County Neighborhood Center.
Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and located in the Hazel Carter Senior Center on Tupelo Trail in James Brown Park in Hinesville, the center is "a unique place for older adults who want to stay active and spend time with their neighbors," according to Patti Lyons, president of Senior Citizens, Inc.
There’s lunch, exercise classes, games and other activities, and transportation is provided to and from the center, according to Lyons. And there’s no charge, although the center does accept donations.
Lyons said activities include walks at a nearby walking trail, parties, karaoke, Nintendo Wii games such as bowling, field trips and other activities that are fun and educational. There’s also yoga and tai chi exercises.
Even better, there’s food.
"Seniors also get a great meal custom designed to help counteract some of the things that happen to us as we get older," Lyons said. "Food is healthy, it’s lower in sugar and low in fat and salt. It sounds like it wouldn’t taste good, but it really, really is."
The center, built expressly for senior citizens, attracts roughly 40 seniors each day, but Lyons said "there’s always room for more." Chrislene Nelson-Taylor, a licensed practical nurse from Hinesville, is the center director and her staff includes two assistants.
"It’s a lovely facility and a warm place for Liberty County residents ages 60 and above who want to continue to enjoy life and learn things," Lyons said. "I can’t say enough what just getting out of the house does for one’s mental and physical health. Just having somebody to talk too makes a big difference, too."
It’s also a self-paced center.
"What activities they do, how much they want to participate, that’s up to them. They decide what field trips they want to go on, they decide the activities they want to do as a group, and to me, that’s what makes it fun. They decide and there’s no forced fun."
More to offer
Also located in the Hazel Carter Senior center is an adult day care center directed by Jennifer Taylor, a registered nurse with a staff of two nurses. It’s for seniors who live with family and need constant attention. Some of those who use the center have recently recovered from strokes or are suffering from Alzheimer’s and "just can’t stay by themselves for any significant amount of time," Lyons said.
Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, the adult day care component now has 10 clients, Lyons said, and there’s room for a few more, but it requires an appointment and assessment to make sure it’s a safe environment for the senior.
While it can be a resource for those who have a senior family member living with them who need to run errands or work, there is a cost involved – though Lyons said there are grants to help those who can’t afford the center.
"We don’t ever want finances to be a barrier," Lyons said. "But there is an assessment process. Families need to call and make an appointment and we highly recommend they and their loved one come and look at it together," she said, adding that though the two sides are different aspects of the center, they’re also part of a growing trend in providing activities and care for seniors.
Lyons, whose Savannah-based nonprofit company has providing seniors services for almost 60 years, said there are been senior couples who take advantage of both the neighborhood center and the adult day care center.
"It’s so unique to have both of these at one site," Lyons said. "It makes it such a great place to be for seniors. Because a registered nurse runs the adult day care site, that means if the folks at the neighborhood center need her then she’s right there."
Lyons also called both the neighborhood center and the adult day care program far more affordable options than either assisted living facilities or a hospital.
"Our adult day care is incredibility inexpensive," she said. "One day at a hospital will equal about half a year at our day care."
But there also are the things you can’t measure in dollars and cents.
"Numerous studies show seniors who get out of their house and participate in a well-run neighborhood senior center live a lot longer, and are a lot healthier and take fewer medications," Lyons said. "We all want to age successfully, and that means having choices in how we live, and where we live."
She said the neighborhood center ensures seniors of "getting at least one really good meal a day, and getting out and talking with friends, and having people laying eyes on them and doing a wellness check, whether they realize it or not."
"We know if something’s wrong, and if they don’t show up one day, Chrislene calls to check on them," Lyons said. "If they do show up and something’s wrong, we have two nurses to check on them. Besides that, the more time you spend by yourself the less healthy you’re going to be. So you might as well spend some time someplace fun."