Tag Archives: culture

Making the Most of a Senior Center

Vantage Point: Not Your Grandmother’s Senior Center

Have you been in a senior center lately? Well, I’m here to tell you, it is in no way like you’d think it would be. Hip, active, and happy people are taking classes, having a laugh at the welcome table, or volunteering behind the desk. Bingo? Sure, they still have bingo, however they have much more than that these days.

Senior centers bring older adults together who want to gather, socialize, and continue to learn. Before working in the Medicare healthcare industry, I’d never ventured into a senior center. Fast forward several years, and it’s where I may spend part of any given day and where I learn the most about our senior population.

Olympia Senior Center is one such center. It is a thriving, bustling, happy place. The welcome table is where you can find me, along with an eclectic group of awesome, interesting, and vivacious older adults who are always ready to welcome a new person to the center or to the community.

I regularly attend the community awareness meetings that take place at the center every Wednesday. Each Wednesday of the month is different. One meeting provides valuable information on various subjects, activities, and projects around the Thurston County area.

Once a month, a community member presents a travelogue about their trip to an adventurous destination. They show a presentation with vivid pictures and give great details about the points of interest from their trip, plus the details of costs, transportation, and accommodations.

This month, the travelogue’s destination was Vietnam, presented by DJ Marks. She is an excellent presenter and kept the group engaged throughout her presentation. While it would not be the first choice for some of us in the group, we all agreed that it was a spectacular look into the culture and history of the country.

On another Wednesday, the group views TED Talks, which are short, powerful videos on various topics. We’ve explored many themes and subjects over the past few months, like money, fear, political divides, and reforming the American justice system. All of these topics have evoked emotional, professional, and spiritual ideas and opinions during discussions.

I asked Sara Rucker-Thiessen, who coordinates these Wednesday meetings, what makes this center different from people’s expectations of a senior center. She said, “We go way beyond leisure activities and incorporate continuing academic learning and discussion of current social issues, along with the fun activities like dances and bingo.”

Other centers around Thurston County incorporate many of the same activities as the Olympia Senior Center; however, what’s great about Olympia is how it’s tailored its center to fit the countless members who show up every day to stay active, be motivated, and get inspired.

I have learned many things from these well-versed and well-lived individuals. One of them being, don’t think you know what’s going on in the senior center until you go in and find out for yourself.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

The Joy of Laughter

Long View: Take Time to Laugh

I guess we are going to survive another Midwestern winter. They bother me more than they used to, but one of the things that helps me get through them is humor.

Once in a while, my office mate Mervet and I have a problem. One of us will start laughing, and then we both join in, unable to stop. Mervet’s eye makeup starts to run, and I can’t get my breath. We occasionally get to the point of snorting, hopefully not too loud. My grandfather used to tell us kids, “That kind of laugher just added an extra week to your life.” Who’s to say he wasn’t right?

Laughter is part of every culture, and the physical and mental benefits are widely known. I notice laughter comes so naturally, especially to our little ones. I think we have all seen babies express their delight with uncontrollable laughter. Ah, the joy of discovery.

Because the benefits of laughter are so well recognized, I guess my question becomes, why don’t we seek out more opportunities to enjoy it? Personally, I make a conscious effort to bring a little humor into my life and the lives of my loved ones. I have a few well-chosen (appropriate) jokes to tell, and I don’t mind being the clown once in a while. I would always choose to read a humorous book over something serious. I have never spent any quality time checking out a murder mystery or a horror story.

I have an upbeat and typically hilarious circle of friends. I am not sure how that came about, but I think it’s a subconscious decision on my part. To me, good-natured humor is a must. Sarcasm doesn’t appeal to me, but a little bit is OK if it’s clever and short-lived. A coworker told me I occasionally stooped to sarcasm, but I denied it and gave him a silent eye-roll as my only response.

We never outgrow our need for humor. I think all of us have been in a group and seen the infectious nature of one person’s solid belly laugh. I’ve seen it sweep through a crowd on a number of occasions. You probably have, too.

Regardless of the season, I think the best part of humor is to share it with someone else. Mervet agrees and doesn’t seem to mind reapplying her eye makeup every once in a while.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.