With a little more than a year under her belt as the Loudon County Senior Center’s director, Becky Wallace is working on staying the course.
“In my opinion, don’t fix the wheel if it’s not broken,” Wallace said. “What they had been doing had been working. We just wanted to kind of increase our numbers. We kind of wanted to get the word out more of I don’t think a lot of folks realize it’s just a $1 lifetime membership to join here. That’s all it costs. I think when people think of joining here they think it’s a big fee.”
One of the biggest ways the center hopes to attract new members is through classes and programs.
The center recently introduced a beginner’s line-dancing class that has drawn good attendance on Mondays. The plan is to add more dance opportunities.
Diane Hensley, line-dancing instructor, stressed the value of dancing as an activity for seniors.
“It is extremely important,” she said. “Although we know that there’s not anything that’s going to cure Alzheimer’s, they have proven that dance is one of the very best things that you can do because you’re using a whole different side of your brain than when you’re walking and that kind of thing. … You have to concentrate. It works for your concentration because you have got to be concentrating on what’s that next step.”
Another popular offering was a lunch and art class where students got to paint while being treated to a meal. The class exceeded what had been the maximum number of spots available.
“I think a lot of it is showing them to think outside the box, get outside their comfort zones,” Jeanie Broyles, senior center activities coordinator, said. “ … It’s not about looking like a Rembrandt, it’s about you enjoying it.”
The center strives to be as diverse as possible in its offerings, which include exercise opportunities, games, a weekly lunch and help for taxes, legal advice and Medicare.
“A large part of it is, is that something our seniors will be interested in? Is that something our seniors will be capable of doing?” Broyles said. “Something like swing, that’s from their timeframe. A lot of them may already know enough basics to be able to pick it up. ... Some of it is scheduling. Can we work that out? We bend over backwards to do that.”
John Moreland regularly stops by the center to use the exercise equipment. At 91 years old, he said he feels fortunate to have a place to stay in shape.
“I think it’s essential,” he said. “It’s wonderful that they have this place here. I come here regularly and work out. It does me good.”
The center also takes regular trips. On Friday, members will go to the University of Tennessee for a luncheon and tour the Knox Makers, a community workshop in Knoxville. The trip is completely booked and has a waiting list, Broyles said.
In December, the center took its first overnight trip to Biltmore Estates in Asheville, N.C. As a result of the trip’s popularity, the center will go on another overnight excursion in May to Nashville.
Broyles hopes that the more activities the center can offer the more it can erase what she calls a common misconception.
“They have the misconception that this is a place for old folks,” she said. “No, it’s not. They think this is like a nursing home. No. I can’t keep up with a lot of these seniors. … This is a facility for people of all abilities.”