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Centers keep seniors active

By Trina Trice

It's hard to keep up with Joan Burton.

The 66-year-old is an avid volunteer and participant at the Shelnutt Senior Center in Jonesboro.

She assists with decorating the walls of the building that sits on a hill next to the Clayton County Headquarters Library.

"I've been coming here about four years now," Burton said. "There have been different day trips we went on. We come in to play bingo on Tuesdays and Fridays."

With nearly 6 percent of Clayton County's population being 65 years or older, the county has sought to improve the quality of life for its seniors with the centers that are a part of the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department.

While the Shelnutt Center has been around for several years, the county opened a new center in Riverdale last year. Called the Clayton County Senior Center, the new facility on Riverdale Road offers a pool and is tucked away from the busy road.

Both centers are open to Clayton County residents at least 55 years old. More than 800 people attend the centers on a weekly basis. Several classes are offered at both locations such as Water Tai Chi, Yoga, cooking, pottery, ceramics, swimming, aerobics, and dance, Spanish, window painting, Tai Chi, and ceramics.

"They're here like clockwork," said Jean Peters, Shelnutt Center program coordinator. "I think they're here for the social aspect of it, as well as (to take classes)."

Richard Inman, 66, works at the Shelnutt Center as a custodian, but even he finds time to make use of the center.

Inman spent part of his lunch break Friday working on a jigsaw puzzle.

"(Seniors) come ?cause they get to meet the other (seniors) that come here," he said. "They get to communicate with one another. It's better than staying at home all day. They get together and play bingo and cards."

Bingo draws some of the largest crowds.

The event can draw between 60 and 70 players, Burton said.

Linda Starnes, Shelnutt Center office assistant, has observed that seniors like to have a good time just like anyone else.

"The larger turnouts are for the dinner-dances," she said. "These seniors love to dance."

They also love to eat, says Burton.

"You don't see too many skinny Minnies around here," she joked.

The catered cafeteria at the Riverdale center draws a lot of people, too, said Ann Weber, program coordinator at the county Senior Center.

Burton loves the day trips.

"Last week we went to the Justice Banke Center and learned about the jail," she said.

Both centers are preparing for an upcoming dinner-dance called Masquerade Ball in October.

"Everybody just has a good time," Peters said.