Senior center involvement on the upswing

Aug. 21—After an extended period of lower COVID-19 cases and safety measures, attendance at area senior centers is rebounding.

It's a change that took a long time to catch hold but hopefully is a long-term indicator, said Julie Noel, manager of the Joyce Raye Patterson 50+ Activity Center.

"We really started seeing a change for the positive in our attendance rate this past winter," she said. "It's increased pretty well throughout the year, and July actually, we had the highest attendance of the calendar year, so we feel that's pretty positive."

Involvement at the Joyce Raye Patterson Center has been at more than 200 people a day during its recent peak, Noel said.

While not as pronounced, traffic at the Andrew County Senior Center also has started to climb recently. It's important to have a place of social interaction for seniors, Karen Clibon, administrator at the Andrew County Senior Center, said.

"They get used to seeing certain ones sitting ... at the same table every day and they know if somebody's going to not be there the next day because they have a doctor's appointment or a hair appointment or whatever," she said.

But not all senior activity centers are seeing the same positive indicators. The InterServ Community Center used to have about 40 seniors show up for lunch every day when the Calvin Center was being used, but those numbers have been halved since a move to InterServ's location on King Hill Avenue, InterServ Foundation Executive Director Brett King said.

The hope is that InterServ's options, including being another place seniors can visit for meals, socialization or to work out, can improve those results, he said.

"We had a group who actually came in and used our weight room, had a little senior fitness thing going on. And I think we're looking to restart that thing back up again," King said. "We just wanted to get the word out that there are some opportunities for seniors to get out of the house and come down here."

One of the most popular options at the Joyce Raye Patterson center is its weight training facilities, but the biggest factor in being able to attract people through the door is adaptability, Noel said.

"We started some game groups, so like dominos and Mexican Train (dominos) and spades," she said. "We started those and have a small following, but we're always looking for more."

Alex Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NPNOWSimone.