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New Sharon Senior Center to Reopen in June

Terry Smith at the New Sharon Senior Center in Hazel Green in Madison County.

Terry Smith has a lot of ideas for the New Sharon Senior Center in Hazel Green. But what she really wants is to hear from those who will be visiting once it reopens in June.

“Whoever comes, I want to hear what they want to get out of their center,” said Terry, who was hired as the center’s nutrition manager in February.

Rosalyn Leavell-Rice, nutrition coordinator for Studio 60, also oversees all nutrition programs in Madison County. She said since the New Sharon center closed November 2023, it has been undergoing renovations. She said one of the key components to reopening the center was hiring Terry to manage it.

Terry has already started listening as she’s called all the former participants. She’s also called others in the surrounding area of Meridianville. She said she’s talked to several people who have never been to or even heard of the center and she’s invited them to consider coming after it reopens on Friday, June 7.

“I had to leave a message for a lot of them but often when they heard my message, they called me back and were so excited asking when it is going to be open,” Terry said.

She’s had a few people who have volunteered to help her get things ready for the reopening.

Carolyn Franklin, a former New Sharon Senior Center participant, has already met Terry and has been volunteering over the past several weeks to help her get the center in order. She’s also recruited a few other volunteers to help.

“Me and the people I talk to are very excited about the center reopening,” Carolyn said. “We want it to hurry up and open.”

Carolyn said the center, which is in what used to be the old New Sharon School lunchroom, looks 100 percent better than when it closed last year.

The center has been freshly painted, cleaned and buffed floors, and renovated bathrooms with grab bars and higher toilet seats.

“We’ve helped her put up new blinds, washed and cleaned everything in the kitchen and we’ve rearranged the tables, Carolyn said. “It’s looking really good in there and it’s a nice place for seniors to come. It feels more like home.”

She said they’re impressed with Terry too.

“Terry is easy to talk to,” Carolyn said. “She listens and we can suggest something to her, and she takes it into consideration. She’s one of us.”

Terry said she’s loved getting to know Carolyn and working with all the volunteers who have helped get their center ready to reopen.

“I’m excited to be here and look forward to their ideas,” Terry said. “Mainly, I want everyone to feel free to be themselves and we will work together to figure out what the center will become to meet the needs of the community.”

Qualify for Masters Games of Alabama in June

Cornhole competition at the 2023 Masters Games of Alabama in Valley

.It’s almost time for the Masters Games of Alabama preliminaries.

Whether your game is dominos, basketball free throw or 3-on-3, cornhole, Rook, softball throw, table tennis, billiards, Nerf or Frisbee throw, shuffleboard, bowling, or golf, there’s a time and place for you to try out in June.

North Alabama seniors have a history of being competitive in the games. In 2023, 39 North Alabama seniors earned 51 gold medals, 19 silver, and 23 bronze medals, along with another 14 medals for the completion of a One Mile Fun Walk.

What are Masters Games?

Masters Games of Alabama is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles for active adults ages 50 and older through social, mental, and physical activities.

The games were developed in Oxford, AL in 1989 to provide an opportunity to maintain an active lifestyle by participating in a variety of events.  While the games provide an Olympic-type atmosphere, the focus is not on competition, but fun and fellowship.

Each year there are between 600 and 800 participants from across the state preliminaries.

You must qualify at a district games competition to compete at the State Games. The state competition will be held in Valley, near Auburn, September 23 – 26.

How to participate?

For Masters Games, the TARCOG and NARCOG regions make up District 2. That means men and women aged 50 and older from Cullman, DeKalb, Jackson, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, & Morgan counties may participate in upcoming preliminaries.

There is a $10 registration fee, which can be paid by cash checks made payable to Studio 60. The deadline to register is May 23, 2024.

Where and when will the preliminaries be held?

Athens Recreation Center, 21281 Sportsplex Loop in Athens (256-233-8740)

June 12, 2024

  • Domino Doubles
  • Domino Singles

June 14, 2024

  • Basketball Free Throw
  • Cornhole
  • Rook
  • Softball Throw

Brahan Springs Recreation Center, 3770 Ivy Ave., Huntsville (256-883-3710)

June 20, 2024

  • Table Tennis

Studio 60, 2200 Drake Ave. SW, Huntsville, (256-880-7080)

June 21, 2024

Billiards

Nerf Throw and Frisbee Throw

Shuffleboard

AMF Bowling, 3117 6TH Ave. SE, Decatur, 256-353-3162

June 27, 2024

  • Bowling

What about 3-on-3 and golf?

For information and to register for the 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, contact Sandi Wilson at 205-978-0163.

For information and to register for Golf Singles and 2-man Scramble, contact Daisy Bolden at 334-240-4667

Any other Masters Games Activities?

A 5K Run/Walk will be held only at the State Games site in Valley. For more information or to register, contact Debbie Martinez at (256) 880-7080 by July 15. Anyone with questions or who is from a county outside of District 2 may also contact Martinez.

A CELEBRATION TO REMEMBER!

 

A big crowd celebrates Older Americans Month at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center on Tuesday, May 14.

When Willie Mae Baker of Athens arrived at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville on Tuesday morning, she knew a good time was in store at the TARCOG Senior Fun Fest.

“It’s a big old fun thing I’m used to coming to,” said Baker, who has been attending the annual Fun Fest for at least 10 years. “I love it. I love it.”

Willie Mae was among about 800 from Northeast Alabama who enjoyed musical and dance performances, games, refreshments, lunch, and door prizes to celebrate Older Americans Month at TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest in Huntsville on Tuesday, May 14.

Willie Mae Baker arrives for TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest on Tuesday, May 14.

One thing was different for the 37th Annual Fun Fest. For the first time in the event’s history, it wasn’t held at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

TARCOG Executive Director Michelle Jordan said it was a tough decision because everyone loves the park. But the forecasted rain and storms forced a last-minute change to the Agribition Center, where events could be safely held indoors.

Aside from a few sprinkles throughout the morning, participants from DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties got to have their celebration before forecasted rain and storms later in the afternoon.

Brenda Littrell, of Paint Rock, attended her first ever TARCOG Senior Fun Fest this week and had a blast enjoying the music and activities.

Brenda Littrell, of Paint Rock, and Linda Larcom, nutrition coordinator for the Jackson County Council on Aging at TARCOG’s 37th Annual Senior Fun Fest.

“I love it, I love it, I love it I’ll be here again when you have it,” she said near the end of the event.

Seniors participated in the Fun Fest from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The honorary co-chairs of the event were Nancy Robertson, TARCOG’s former executive director, and Rene Breland, the agency’s former director of aging programs. This was the first regional Fun Fest since 2019 and since both retired from the agency.

The event was co-sponsored by the Madison County Commission, with Commission Chair Mac McCutcheon and Commissioners Tom Brandon, Violet Edwards and Steve Haraway attending.

McCutcheon and Haraway are TARCOG board members. Other TARCOG board members who participated included Limestone County Commission Chair Colin Daly, Athens City Councilman James Lucas, Huntsville City Councilwoman Jennie Robinson and Helen Carter, an Athens resident.

The event was held in Brandon’s County Commission District, where Sharon Johnston Park and The Agribition Center are located. County parks and recreation staff helped throughout the months of planning and on event day, Michelle said. The Agribition Center staff were also integral in making the last-minute venue shift.

“It takes a team effort to pull off an event of this size for our seniors,” Michelle said.

There were about 40 vendors and exhibitors which added to the fun environment with giveaways, activities, and snacks. There was a cooking lesson, photo sessions, and opportunities for health screenings among the many offerings of the day.

“It was truly a fun day for our seniors,” Michelle said. “We saw a lot of smiling faces and that’s the whole goal of this Fun Fest. We want them to have a day that’s all about them, and a chance to feel like a kid again.”

Senior Employment Success!

Bunny Graves

At age 84, Bunny Graves enjoys working for extra money with a job she landed through TARCOG’s senior job training program.

“It has helped me tremendously especially the way prices keep going up and up,” Bunny said. She reached out to John Sanders, manager of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) back in September 2022 after learning about the program while donating to a local charity.

“During Covid, prices started going up and while I felt like I had enough to survive, I thought it would be nice to have some pin money,” Bunny said. “If you don’t know what pin money is, it’s from a long time ago when the ladies used to save all their money from selling their bread, eggs or vegetables from their gardens so they could buy steel sewing pins, and that’s why it’s called ‘pin’ money.”

She hadn’t worked anywhere since 2011, but John said she had a solid work history and a great attitude. Placement during the pandemic was challenging, but he had assignments to keep Bunny busy until a placement worked out.

Bunny remembers going on a couple of interviews that just didn’t work out. But then, she went to the Robert “Bob” Harrison Senior Wellness and Advocacy Center in north Huntsville. That’s where she went into training as a front desk clerk on Dec. 6. 2022. Recently, the center hired her before it was time for her to move to another worksite with the four-year training program.

Working part-time, she fills in for staff if they’re busy, makes out membership applications, gives tours around the building, and helps in any way she can.

“Ms. Bunny has been a joy to us and our customers here at the Bob Harrison Center and her enthusiasm and brightness has brightened my days,” said Deitrick Smart, the center manager.

Bunny was the first SCSEP placement for the Harrison Center, but Deitrick said he’s expecting another trainee to assist with the Nutrition Program starting in June.

“It’s working out great for us,” he said.

John said the senior employment training program is a “win-win” for both sides. In Bunny’s situation, she will work 20 hours each week and her new job netted her a 29 percent pay increase. The senior center gained an employee with a proven track record.

LOCATION CHANGE for Senior Fun Fest

New Location: Alabama A&M Agribition Center, 4925 Moores Mill Road, Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE — Rain may be in the forecast but TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest will go on rain or shine. The event location, however, is changing. For the first time in 37 years, Senior Fun Fest will be held at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center on Moores Mill Road in Huntsville, not at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

“This is our first regional Fun Fest since 2019, before the pandemic, and we do not want to disappoint those planning to come to our biggest event of the year to celebrate Older Americans Month” said TARCOG Executive Director Michelle Jordan. “After the damaging storms we experienced this week, and looking at the rain chances for next week, our team searched for a suitable indoor space rather than canceling.”

Jordan said the lineup and schedule will remain the same, except there won’t be an opportunity to fish.

“We will all miss the park, it’s a beautiful setting for a celebration,” Jordan said. “The important thing is that we won’t have to cancel Senior Fun Fest. It’s going to be a fun day of celebration that everyone who attends is sure to enjoy.”

Seniors will be coming to town from the entire TARCOG Region including DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties. Fun Fest is sponsored annually by TARCOG and the Madison County Commission, with ticket sales and other local businesses also providing financial support to offset costs.

Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the event, which will be Tuesday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While participants are arriving between 9 to 9:45 a.m., a Tai Chi for Arthritis class will be held before the festivities begin. Snacks and a boxed lunch will be served, and there will be entertainment, a photo booth, and activities like BINGO, Corn Hole, Nerf Ball Throw, Frisbee Throw, and more — plus door prizes.

More information is available by calling 256-830-0818, or www.tarcog.us

TARCOG Makes Community Connections

John Sanders, director of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), was on a panel of speakers discussing Workforce Development at the monthly meeting of the Elm Foundation.

TARCOG appreciates the opportunity to share information about job training opportunities for those 55 and older at this morning’s Community Connections meeting held at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in downtown Huntsville.

John Sanders, director of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), was on a panel of speakers discussing Workforce Development at the monthly meeting of The Elm Foundation.

Other panelists included Beth Zinn, program manager of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Driving Possibilities; Candace Williams, program director of North AlabamaWorks; and Douglas Brazier, business developer at Calhoun Community College.

Sanders explained how SCSEP promotes personal dignity and self-sufficiency through work. The training attained through SCSEP provides in-demand skills for older, unemployed, low-income Americans when they are returning to the workforce.
He said SCSEP is a cornerstone program of the Older Americans Act and the only federal job training program targeted exclusively to low-income, older jobseekers.
The Community Connection Meetings are topic-focused and held each month as on opportunity to share resources, information, and professional development. Attendees include nonprofit agencies, civic, faith and corporate partners. The group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 9:00 a.m., at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library on Monroe Street.
The May 8th Community Connections meeting will focus on Community Financial Stability Programs in the area.
For more information on the senior employment program, contact John Sanders, at john.sanders@tarcog.us or 256-830-0818.

Seniors Step To The Beat In Arab

Judy Cundiff

Meet Judy Cundiff. At age 70, she was bored being at home by herself. She was dependent on a wheelchair and didn’t have a way to go anywhere, even though she wanted to.

Then she found out the Arab Senior Center could help.

Transportation is a game-changer

“I had been wanting to come to the Senior Center for a while,” she recalled, adding that having a bus to transport her back and forth changed everything. In the year since she’s been coming, a lot has changed for Judy.

“I’ve made new friends, I’ve learned a lot of different games and I enjoy it,” Judy said after trying Bunko for the first time in March. “I love it.”

But that’s not all that’s changed for her. Judy underwent surgery in early March, and she no longer needs a wheelchair.

“I’m just now back to the center this week,” she said. “Walking!”

One thing she’s looking forward to trying when she’s completely healed is the center’s Line Dancing Class.

Maggie Thrower, manager of the Arab Senior Center, said line dancing is one of the center’s most popular classes.  Participants drive from Guntersville and nearby Morgan County to take advantage of the class, offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Helen Hawkins, front, is one of the oldest participants in the Line Dancing Class at the Arab Senior Center.

Line Dancing

At 89, Helen Hawkins is one of the oldest participants in the line dancing class, skillfully led by Patra Bowman, 70, who uses a variety of music and dance routines to keep the class interesting.

“We started the class with four people when we came back after Covid,” she said. “Word has gotten out it’s a good, fun class because we always have a good crowd.”

The two-hour class is broken up into four sessions:

  • Absolute Beginner
  • Beginner
  • Improver
  • Intermediate Level
Line Dancing at the Arab Senior Center

Helen has been line dancing for at least 20 years and showed no signs of slowing down as she moved in perfect time with tunes from Michael Jackson, George Strait and Shawn Mendes to name a few.

“I like to dance, and I love all music,” Helen said. “I’ll dance to it all.”

Through the years, Helen said the class members have done performances at assisted living centers in Huntsville, Scottsboro and the Shoals area. They’ve gone to Mobile, Montgomery and even Pigeon Forge for performances and workshops, she added.

“And we dance on the streets of Arab at the Poke Salat Festival,” she added. The festival is set for next month on Saturday, May 18.

Helen said at her age, she tries to keep moving and she comes to the Senior Center every day.

“A lot of people come to play games and they really seem to enjoy it,” Helen said. “I don’t do that, but I will sit and color and visit and talk with others on the days we don’t line dance.”

Staying active

Dianne Gilliland, 66, of Guntersville, has been driving to Arab for several months for the line dancing class to keep mentally and physically fit.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a great exercise program.”

Mike and Brenda Thorn are learning to line dance at the Arab Senior Center

Mike Thorn, 60, was one of a few men participating in the beginner part of the class.

“I’m taking one for the team,” he laughed. He and his wife Brenda, 58, moved from Madison to Arab last year. Mike retired in January and the couple decided to check out the Senior Center with her visiting as his guest.

Brenda recalls the first day they showed up for the line dancing class, thinking it was going to be easy for them because they’re younger.

“They told us to ‘get ready’ and I thought, yeah, right, it’s just line dancing – how hard can it be?  But that first day, halfway through the first song Mike told me his thighs were hurting and I told him mine were too,” she said with a laugh. “The 90-year-olds were making us look bad. I thought they broke us the way we hurt afterwards.”

Worth the drive

Betsy Spencer, 67, drives to the center from Ryan Crossroads in nearby Morgan County for the past year.

“It’s great for companionship, exercise and we have fun,” she added.

Susu Watkins, 67, also from Guntersville, has been making the drive over to Arab since last November for the line dancing class.

“It’s fun and it’s just a great environment to be in because you don’t have to be perfect while you’re learning,” Susu said. “And you really have to get your mind together to do it, so it helps you with your mind too.”

Michele Hill, front, is back on the dance floor at the Arab Senior Center following surgery.

Longtime Senior Center participant Michele Hill, 77, is just returning after a two-year hiatus for hip and knee replacement surgeries, but she couldn’t wait to back out there.

“I’m starting to feel good again, but I’ve been out for a long time,” Michele said, while taking a break. “Time flies, but I’ve been dancing easily over 10 years and glad to be back.”

Dance floor versus swimming pool

Amanda Hollrah, 84, who lives just outside of Arab, started going to the Senior Center in 2011. It was about a year after her husband died.

“I had to do something to get out of the house and I tried swimming. I enjoyed it but when I would leave there, I’d be wet, my hair would be wet, and I was cold and then I’d stay cold, and I was like why I am I doing this?” she remembered thinking. “So, this a good option.”

 

Arab Senior Center entrance

About the center

Located in Marshall County, Arab is nestled on top of Brindlee Mountain. More than 8,600 residents live in Arab, with 16.6 percent of those being age 65 or older.

The Arab Senior Center is a 17,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility that provides a safe and enjoyable setting for those 60 and older. Maggie said the center provides plenty of space to fellowship for visitors to various activities and share experiences with new friends.

The center also serves the greater community during severe weather. Maggie said it is also designated as a safe place for anyone in the community, regardless of age, if the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Watch, and the weather becomes active. But no pets or firearms are allowed inside the building.

Hot meals and more

While line dancing is a big draw for the center, it offers much more for seniors.

The center serves hot meals to about 25 participants daily and provides meals for 18 who are homebound, Maggie said. Even more stop in to play billiards, card or board games, exercise in the gym, and enjoy the library and reading room, arts and crafts, or computer room.

Maggie said each morning there are planned activities designed to get the center’s participants moving and keep them active.

For participant members ages 60 and up who are unable to drive, bus transportation is provided to and from the center, but on request, once a week the bus will also take them for groceries, household items, and doctors’ appointments.

Arab Senior Center Manager Maggie Thrower

“This is not just a job to me, they are my friends,” said Maggie who has been at the center for 11 years as manager and assistant manager.

“This one, she does a great job,” said Amanda Hollrah, a longtime center participant. “All the people she’s brought in and they keep coming because it’s very welcoming and we just all have a good time here.”

What do you need?

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.