It's a new age for golden-agers

By Diane Wagner

Thirty years ago, Elizabeth Austin and Bert Evans studied yoga under Dot Ledderman at the old McDonough library.

These days, they're doing it again?at the Heritage Senior Citizens Center.

"It slows down the aging process," Austin said. "I can feel the difference since I started these classes."

With yoga classes in Henry and "Raindrop Massage" aromatherapy sessions in Clayton County, it's clear that this new generation of grandparents is not the same as the old.

"You don't use it, you lose it," said Charles Lester, while shooting a round of pool at the Shelnutt Senior Adult Center in Jonesboro.

Lester keeps fit with water aerobics classes offered at the senior center in Riverdale, while his friend Lewis Phillips walks seven days a week at the Jesters Creek Trail off Battle Creek Road.

"I just play pool," Tom Hawkins said with a laugh, but he later admitted he attends an exercise program called "Smart Bodies" at Clayton College and State University.

"Television and air conditioning will almost keep a person enslaved in the house," Lester said. "If you sit there long enough, you won't want to get up. Then if you want to, you can't."

Seniors can still play Bingo at the centers in both counties, but organizers are also aware that more older people are focusing on staying in shape, both physically and mentally.

"We have a suggestion box for new activities, then our program coordinator finds people to teach them," Shelnutt Center office assistant Vivian Williams said. "That's how we started the massage therapy."

Stockbridge resident Barbara Frazier was the one who pushed Ledderman into offering Hatha Yoga classes at Heritage. Frazier said Ledderman's program helped her daughter overcome some debilitating medical problems several years ago.

"I was impressed by the success of my daughter," Frazier said. "Since focusing on yoga, her medical conditions are dormant. She has greater self-esteem and powers of concentration."

During the class on Friday, Judy Vance said she wished she had started the sessions years ago "because I'd look like Dot now."

At 56, Vance is one of the youngest members of the center, which is open to all Henry County residents aged 55 and older. When she moved to the county last year, Vance said she was not thinking of herself as a senior citizen.

"Then I started reading about all the trips they go on and thought it was a great way to get to know the area," she said. "Now I love it. It's not like I thought it would be."

The centers organize outings to places ranging from Ellijay apple orchards to the Stone Mountain Daisy Festival, Turner Field, the Macon mall and the Andersonville POW museum.

For more information: Clayton County Senior Adult Center, Riverdale, 678-479-5505; Shelnutt Senior Adult Center, Jonesboro, 770-473-5788; Heritage Senior Center, McDonough, 770-954-2037; Hidden Valley Senior Center, Fairview; 770-389-7840.