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INPUT NEEDED ON NEW STATE PLAN ON AGING

The Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS), in partnership with TARCOG Area Agency on Aging (AAA), wants to hear from you. Every four years, ADSS completes a State Plan on Aging that acts as a blueprint of advocacy efforts and services to help meet the needs of senior adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers so they can live at home for as long as possible.

ADSS wants to make your voice heard by giving you the opportunity to share what’s important. If you are a senior adult, person with a disability, caregiver, and/or someone who’s interested in people living at home and their communities for as long as possible, please click here to complete the short anonymous Needs Assessment.

The deadline to submit is Friday April 12th, 2024.

TARCOG offers free memory testing

A memory screening is a simple and safe “healthy brain check-up” that tests memory and other thinking skills that TARCOG staff is certified to provide at no cost.

Lydia Weeks, coordinator of the Alabama Cares Program provided through TARCOG, and Darrell Hill, program case manager, will perform screenings by appointment either virtually, in person at the TARCOG office, or at community sites throughout DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties.

TARCOG was recently designated as a trained memory screening site by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), after Weeks received her certification and Hill also began the certification process.

What is a memory screening?

The memory screening is a series of questions and or tasks that takes about 10 minutes to complete. It can indicate if someone might benefit from a comprehensive medical evaluation. It is not used to diagnose any illness and does not replace consultation with a physician or other clinician, Lydia said.

Why are memory screenings important?

Lydia said the screenings are a significant first step toward finding out if a person may have a memory problem. Memory problems could be caused by several medical conditions, including vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues and depression, as well as dementia-related illnesses including Alzheimer’s.

Some memory problems such as those cause by vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems, can be readily treated, she added. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible such as Alzheimer’s disease. In general, the earlier the diagnosis the easier it is to treat one of these conditions.

“Early detection of mild cognitive impairment may afford a person the opportunity to take advantage of treatments that may slow the changes in memory and thinking skills ‑ or participate in a clinical trial,” Lydia said.

If the memory problem is the result of a dementia-related illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, she said early detection may enable the person to begin treatments and therapeutic interventions sooner, afford greater opportunity to participate in a clinical trial and take a more active role in developing their health legal and financial plans.

Other TARCOG resources

The memory screenings are a new tool for the TARCOG staff which also provides virtual dementia tours and Dementia Friendly Alabama trainings for school aged children, businesses and first responders.

For more information about services or to schedule an appointment for a memory screening, contact Lydia at lydia.weeks@tarcog.us or 256-830-0818.

Get Ready to Celebrate Seniors in May!!

CELEBRATE — Older Americans Month in May

Think back to 1980 — or the many celebrations since that year when you may have heard Kool and the Gang singing, “Celebrate good times, come on,” and you will have an idea of what’s in store for the upcoming 2024 Senior Fun Fest.

It’s going to be a party to remember for up to 2,000 seniors celebrating Older Americans Month, which is recognized in May. Fun Fest is sponsored by TARCOG and the Madison County Commission, with ticket sales and other local businesses also providing financial support to offset costs.

Tickets

Tickets are now on sale, said TARCOG’s Director of Aging Programs Sheila Dessau-Ivey, It will be the 37th annual event held May 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sharon Johnston Park, 783 Coleman Road in New Market. The rain date will be Thursday, May 16.

Advance tickets are $5. This year, an advance ticket and T-shirt bundle is available for $15. Advance tickets may be purchased at any Senior Center in DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties, or, at the TARCOG Office at 7037 Old Madison Pike, Suite 450, in Huntsville. Advance ticket pricing ends Friday, April 12. For more information call TARCOG at 830-0818.

Tickets may also be purchased after April 12 or at the gate on the day of the event for $7. T-shirts at the gate will be $13.

TARCOG Region Together Again

This year will be the first time since 2019, before COVID, that seniors from all the region’s counties will gather in one place to celebrate their month.

“We are so excited to see things getting back to normal,” Sheila said “During the past three years we were forced to do things differently, like holding individual Older Americans Month celebrations in each county. Since I’m relatively new to TARCOG, I’m excited to see seniors from DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties get together in one place to celebrate their lives, achievements and their lively spirits.”

She said the Senior Fun Fest Committee began meeting in January to plan this year’s event, which will be focused on celebrating good times with a Mardi Gras theme.

What happens at Fun Fest?

A pre-event Tai Chi session will take place from 9:30 to 10 a.m. where participants may join in to loosen up before the festivities begin, said Emmitt Davis, this year’s Senior Fun Fest coordinator.

After a short welcome ceremony at 10 a.m., activities will include BINGO, a photo booth, with music by DJ Jammin Jeff and live music provided by:

  • Hard on the Chickens Band
  • Tina Turner Group
  • Jimmy Ray’s Slap Happy Hayride

A Masters Games competition will be held for Corn Hole, the Nerf Ball Throw and Frisbee Throw, Emmitt added.

Those attending with tickets will enjoy a boxed lunch, Emmitt said. And snacks like popcorn and snow cones also available throughout the event. There will also be door prizes given out, he added.

“This is always a fun event, and we can’t wait to be there at Sharon Johnston Park and celebrate, truly celebrate all of our amazing TARCOG region seniors,” Emmitt said. “Our staff is hard at work putting all of the details in place so that it’s a special day to remember.”

More information is available by calling 256-830-0818.

Seniors Are Young at Heart in Pisgah

Oh, What Singing!

It’s been said that there’s power in a name and the Young at Heart Activity Center in Pisgah is proof with its steady attendance of caring and fun-loving participants.

The senior center is in a town of about 681 that sits along the western edge of Sand Mountain in Jackson County. At age 98, Ed Gant is the center’s oldest participant.

“I think I’m as old as the mountain,” Ed said, explaining that he’s lived in Pisgah since he was 14 and his family moved there from Scottsboro. He goes to the center every day and often shares poems or Gospel songs he’s written.

There are several activities for seniors at the center, like a workout room, Bingo, dancing, card games, a penny auction and puzzles. Center Manager Glenda Shiflett said about 24 show up each day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The center provides lunch and snacks.

“We really try to make everyone feel welcome and enjoy themselves,” said Glenda, who has managed the center about 17 years. She was instrumental in keeping things going when the center burned down in an overnight fire in 2019. Today, the rebuilt center remains a hub of activity.

On a recent Wednesday, a special musical guest stopped by, and the participants sang, clapped and danced.

It was the first time that musician Jimmy Ray Weatherly of Scottsboro played his guitar and sang a variety of songs from different genres like country, gospel and rock-n-roll.

“When I was a kid, I hated country,” Jimmy told the group after singing Silver Wings by Merle Haggard. “Country was all my Mama and Dad listened to. I was only interested in rock-n-roll, and they were upstairs listening to songs like this,” as he belted out another Merle Haggard tune, Mama Tried.

One of the ladies shared that her son has the words “Mama tried” tattooed on his finger.

Something changed when Jimmy hit his 30s, and he realized there was something special about country music.

“I’ve been to the Grand Ole Opry, and I’ve seen Elvis,” said Gayle Lambert, as Jimmy started singing the George Jones classic, He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Jimmy said he never appreciated classics like that song until he got a little older. And he launched into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the crowd clapped and sang along before he switched it up with Three Wooden Crosses by Randy Travis.

“Sing some Alabama songs,” one participant yelled out. “How about some Good Ole Rocky Top, another one requested as Jimmy started playing Old Flame, followed by a rousing rendition of Rocky Top.

Jimmy also got the crowd going with the old Gospel favorites, I’ll Fly Away and Amazing Grace. It seemed like everyone knew the words to most all the songs that Jimmy played.

“I’m so thankful for the gifts the Lord Jesus has given us,” Jimmy told the group. “The gift of life, he showed us the way and he gave us one commandment that you love each other as I have loved you … so we should love as Jesus loved, unconditionally …”

Jimmy sang Make the World Go Away and George Jones first hit, White Lightning, which prompted a a lively conversation about family members or people the participants have known throughout their lives who made home brew.

Every song Jimmy sang resonated with the group from “Dixieland Delight,” “Devil Woman” and “Sweet Caroline”, to “Country Roads” and “It’s Only Make Believe.”

“This was a lively group and I’d like to come back here as part of my ministry,” he told Glenda and the group, who told him he’s welcome any time he can work it in his schedule.

Gayle Lambert, who is in her late 70s or early 80s, said she used to play and perform guitar, piano and sing. Jimmy Ray told her he appreciated her harmony.

“I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed this today,” Gayle said.

While Jimmy’s performance was something new, Glenda said they bring in different types of entertainment from time to time, along with their regular activities.

“Everyone enjoys staying active and we really enjoy our center,” she said.

Alice Reed, 74, has been coming to the activity center for two years after Glenda invited her when they ran into each other at the dollar store.

“I didn’t know if I’d come. I had just lost my husband, but Glenda told me she knows where I live so I came and I’m still here,” Alice said. “Everyone made me feel so welcome and look, I am a very, very, shy person but coming here has got me out of some of that and it’s a good thing. We sit around and visit, play cards and we have fun”.

Brenda Shealy, 72, enjoys playing card, doing puzzles “or just doing something. We come as often as we can if we don’t have doctor’s or other appointments. It’s part of our routine and we enjoy it.”

Johnnie Smith, 83, been coming to Young at Heart about 13 years.

“I was going to Ider for 10 years before that and then started coming here because it’s a little closer,” she said. “Being with other people and socializing is important.”

Glenda and assistant manager, Wanda Roberts who started about a year ago, both love what they do at the center, and it shows before you ever walk into the front door. The parking lot is full. Once inside, you find a group that’s as close as family. Everyone understands and is accepting of each other’s challenges and they’re supportive of each other.

“We welcome anyone who wants to join us,” Glenda said.

Ardmore Senior Center — Where staying active is fun

Ardmore Senior Center’s oldest participants are Earl Nichols, 92 and Willie Emma Billions, 96.

In a bright red “Bama” shirt, Willie Emma Billions doesn’t look her age. She’s 96 and loves to play the board game Aggravation. It’s hard to beat her.

Earl Nichols sits to her right as a game is underway. He says he’s 72.

“No, he’s not, he’s 92!” says his wife Deborah, who is 72. Earl looks up and grins. Then Willie Emma sends Earl’s playing pieces back to the beginning and moves one of hers to home.

Willie Emma and Earl are the oldest participants at the Ardmore Senior Center, where there was a lot of joshing around on a recent Thursday morning when a guest drops in for a visit at 8 a.m. when the center opens.

“We’re the best looking too,” Earl says of himself and Willie Emma.

Center Manager Jim Bonner, 88, goes from table to table and plays different games with the participants. Soft bluegrass music plays in the background while a billiards game is going on in one corner of the room, a puzzle is being worked on at one table, while a game of Rook is underway at another table and Gin Rummy is going at another.

It may be a small center, but Jim says most days of the week that there are 12 to 14 participants who attend out of the 28 total who are signed up. Attendance is higher in the warmer months, he added.

“Basic Instructions before leaving earth, that’s what the Bible is,” Georgia Wessling, 87, is saying as the visitor approached a table where she, Deborah, and Mildred Mitchell, 76, insist on teaching the visitor how to play Rummy. The conversation among the ladies is effortless and informative.

Mildred stops by most every morning before she goes to work at Blondie’s Beauty Shop or fixing hair over at the nursing home. She takes time to help the visitor learn the card game, while Deborah shares a story about how she ended up bringing home a stray cat from the parking lot of Walmart on Jordan Lane in Huntsville.

“It was young, running around dodging cars about to get killed when a young boy stopped and jumped out of his pickup truck and grabbed it,” Deborah said. “I asked him if he was going to take it home and he said he couldn’t and he asked me if I could take it. I said my husband will kill me if I bring home another cat, but I took her anyway.”

Then she woke up one morning feeling something cold next to her in bed. The cat had three kittens next to Deborah in her bed.

Deborah described her new cat as being pretty with long white hair and a little gray patch on her head. She named her Sadie. Two of the kittens were white with a gray spot on their heads and one was black. She named them Nina, Cassie and Tootie. She’s keeping all of them, plus her 10-year-old gray and white cat Sissie.

When asked about the cats later, Earl joked that he should have killed his wife and the cat, but then he reluctantly admitted he enjoys the kittens.

As Mildred heads out to go to work, Evelyn Hubbard, 87, has just arrived at the center and takes Mildred’s chair at the card table. Georgia says she can put up with anything “I worked seven years with the criminally insane at Fulton State Hospital in Missouri.”

About that time, Louie Daly also arrived, and everyone says his name as he walks through the side door and heads over to the pool table.

There’s always a game of Rook at the center. On this day, Tom Brannon, 76, Dale Mitchell, 76, Lordel “Lori” McClain, 87, and Roger Harvell, 81, are playing their last hand.

Roger says he and Jackie Billions, the center’s bus driver, have played bluegrass music at “Picking and Grinning” night at Tennessee Annex Building every Thursday night for the past 18 years. It’s open mic and anybody who wants to can play.

The points are tallied up and Tom gets up to leave saying “It was good beating you,” as he walked out the door.

Lori is one of the newcomers to the area. She and her husband moved to the area to be closer to their daughter when her husband became ill about four to five years ago. Her husband died about a year ago.

She started coming to the Senior Center to stay active and rides the bus to get there.

“Sometimes our games last three or four hours,” Lori said, adding she enjoys the company of the others.

Jackie drives the bus and is Willie Emma’s son. In between rides, he’s working on the last pieces of a puzzle.

“I’m thinking about keeping this one and taking it home. I like it,” Jackie says. “About four years ago we did a big one that was all Alabama football … I framed it and took it home.”

Jackie said he doesn’t mind doing all the driving because everyone has a good time at the center. He also does the driving when they take day trips to the Amish Country or other places to get out and about.

Right next to Jackie, Roger has moved from the Rook table to the pool table where he and Louie are racking up the balls and getting ready for another game. Jim reminds everyone to pick up some free chocolate that was dropped off by Russell Stover.

Jim says there’s something for everyone at the Ardmore Senior Center. Ardmore is located on the Alabama-Tennessee state line with nearly 2,600 residents combined in the Town of Ardmore in Alabama and the City of Ardmore in Tennessee. Both sides are welcome at the Senior Center.

Free refreshments are provided each day, but no hot meals are served at the center. Jim said several participants pick up a week’s worth of frozen meals each week. However, Jim bakes goodies and from time to time they often have a soup or chili day, he says. And there are days they also go out to a restaurant and eat together.

Jim said he thinks people who have never been to the Senior Center may have a misconception about what it’s like.

“We’ve got a varied supply of people already attending that cover all socio-economic groups, education and income levels,” Jim said. “There’s something that will fit almost anybody, one way or another. In addition to the games and activities, there are places for conversations, exercise equipment, a television and a small library for reading.

“When the weather is warmer, we will take trips and we go out to eat together too,”

Last year, the Senior Center took trips to the Amish communities during harvest season and when it was time to make molasses. They also went to the Milky Way Farm in Tennessee and to the Yesterdays Dinner Theater near Athens. Photos from different events hang around the center’s bulletin board.

In addition to the fun and engaging activities, Jim says he also stays up on what resources are available for seniors.

“If they call and ask, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll locate the resource they need,” Jim said.

But it’s the comradery that keeps this group coming back day after day.

“It’s a place to talk a lot and it’s a lot better than sitting at home alone talking to yourself,” Evelyn said. “And we have fun.”

The Town of Ardmore Senior Center, is located at 29920 Park Ave. For more information, call 256-423-2099.

2024 Senior Expo of the Jackson County Council on Aging

More than 500 people had a chance to learn about the agencies, resources and services available to them in the area at the 2024 Senior Expo of the Jackson County Council on Aging held Friday, Jan. 26, at the Scottsboro Goose Pond Civic Center.

Chad Coleman, council director, said the event gave the aging population in Jackson County an opportunity to learn from 51 vendors about services and resources. It was also a chance to listen to live music, dance, have food and win door prizes.

A paper shredder truck to safely get rid of confidential paperwork was available in the parking lot sponsored by First Southern State Bank. Music was provided by Roy Whitaker and the Jimmy Ray’s Slap Happy Hayride.

The free event lasted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and was sponsored by One Love Hearing Concepts and Devoted Health Plans.