City's senior programs draw many out of house
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 1, 2012 1:46 PM
Stasia Fields, right, specialized program recreation supervisor with Goldsboro Parks and Recreation, shares a laugh during swimnastics class at the YMCA with Edna Watson, 89, Nana Griffin, 85, and Connie Booth, 92.
Not everybody in the adult swimnastics class at the YMCA readily dived right in.
"I didn't put my head under the water until I was 65," said Edna Watson, who turns 90 in December.
"I don't participate an awful lot because of my hearing, but I go to the pool. That's my favorite," said Connie Booth, 92, who swims twice a week.
Nana Griffin, 85, recalled coming to swim classes years ago, when they were held at the former Community Building downtown.
The women, gathered for their weekly canasta game at Herman Park Center along with Jeanne Lovings -- "the youngest at the table," in her 70s -- are regulars at the array of activities in the 50-Plus program sponsored by Goldsboro Parks and Recreation.
From aerobics on Mondays and Wednesdays to line dancing, the women said they would be hard-pressed to name their favorite activity.
"We just do everything on that calendar," Ms. Watson said.
"We try. There's just so much that goes on around here. This building stays very busy," Ms. Lovings said.
This week marks one of the biggest events for the program, the annual Wayne County Senior Games -- through May 8. The schedule includes contests in bowling, golf, tennis and track events.
Ms. Watson said she plans to compete in horseshoes, shuffleboard, the softball throw and football throw.
"I signed up for archery, but they didn't have enough for that," she said.
"It's just a week of fun and fellowship," Ms. Lovings said. "It's a great way to meet people. At our age, there's a lot of things that you don't want to go out and do any more."
"Your priorities change as your age changes," agreed Ms. Watson.
The activities are not only physically beneficial but mentally and emotionally, the women said.
"It keeps your mind busy. It keeps you young at heart," Ms. Lovings said.
"You can't do much with the body sometimes," Ms. Booth said.
Stasia Fields, specialized program recreation supervisor with Parks and Recreation, has led the program for 25 years, watching it grow from a group of "my people" to "my peers."
At 52, she says if she wasn't coordinating the program, she would still be a participant.
"A lot of us are empty-nesters," she said. "I miss the heck out of going to baseball games. This is just a wholesome way to get out and meet some friends. ...
"It's actually stuff that I like to do. I love to bike, I love to exercise, swimnastics at the Y, canasta -- now we have four or five tables every week -- I definitely take their suggestions and I'm always open to more suggestions, especially those programs that they can take the ball and run with it."
The Golden Agers Club is a social club that meets once a month, sharing a covered dish lunch and featuring a speaker or entertainment and a short business meeting. There are about 100 on the membership list, Ms. Fields said.
The number of participants in other activities varies -- from 30-35 in a fitness class or water aerobics down to a half-dozen in the woodcarving or dominoes classes.
"I have got some people that I see every day -- they come to every single thing -- and then some people that I see just once a month at the luncheon or maybe just coming once a week," she said. "They can come as much or as little as they want."
She estimated about 260 will take part in this year's Senior Games, up from last year's 249.
There's no membership fee for the program, thanks to support from the City Council, Ms. Fields said. That is an added appeal to the population that oftentimes is on a fixed income.
"The Golden Agers charge is $5 for the whole year, which goes back to use for get well cards and donations," she said. "Water aerobics is $2 every time they come. If I'm teaching the class other than swimnastics, there's no cost. If we bring in an outside instructor, like yoga or art class, the instructor helps us set the fee."
About 500 seniors participate throughout the year, she said.
"Different people come to the classes from different places in their life," she said. "If they're home by themselves all the time, they just need someone to talk to. Some if they're busy all day, they want to focus on learning and not so much the social aspect."
For some, it's about trying out new things or modifying what they can no longer do.
"Horseback riding, or going away to camp -- a whole lot of people did not get to go to camp as children or maybe that wasn't an option," Ms. Fields said. "We celebrate the person that has the most 'firsts', riding a horse, first time in a canoe. There's always something new out there to try."
For others, programs like this provide an opportunity to age gracefully.
"We have had people that have told me that they have suffered from depression and stuff like that," Ms. Fields said. "Because I have been around so long, I have had people that have lost children, a lot have lost spouses. ...
"A large part of (aging gracefully) is just not giving up and giving into it, still doing what you can do, really being a lifelong learner, not necessarily books and stuff but learning stuff that they didn't have time to do when they were raising kids, maybe something new that they wanted to try."