By Joel Hall
Hundreds of senior citizens broke a sweat at Clayton County International Park on Friday, during Clayton County Senior Services Department's third annual Mayfest.
The celebration, held in conjunction with national Older Americans Month, equipped local seniors with exercise tips and information on how to stay active and healthy.
From 10 a.m., to 2 p.m., at the International Park's St. Martin's Pavilion, seniors viewed demonstrations on spinning, urban rebounding, tai chi chaun, and other free classes offered at local senior centers.
They also participated in group exercises, and viewed cultural dances, such as clogging and Korean line dancing.
Mary Byrd, director of the Senior Services Department, said attendance at the event has grown since it was founded three years ago.
"I think out of the three years, this is our largest crowd," Byrd said. "We have about 650 people. During this month, each of the different senior centers has different events centered around health and wellness. [Mayfest is] sort of a jump-start to becoming more active."
During the event, nearly 20 local vendors hosted booths with information on topics relevant to seniors, such as health products, prescription discounts, insurance products, and lighting and heating assistance.
In addition, for the first time in Mayfest history, the Senior Services Department hosted a timed, competitive fitness walk around International Park, in which more than a hundred seniors participated.
"We know that physical fitness is the key to stopping a lot of these chronic diseases," Byrd said.
Until March of this year, the Senior Services Department was a division of the Parks and Recreation Department. Detrick Stanford, director of Parks and Recreation, said the Mayfest program has only improved since Senior Services became its own department.
"It gets better and better every year," Stanford said. "Often, our seniors are the forgotten generation, in terms of planning and programming. A lot of the time, seniors aren't knowledgeable of the programs available. By having all the vendors together, they can have a better idea of the programs they can take advantage of."
Rory Burke, 59, a Jonesboro resident, who recently moved to the area from New York, attended Mayfest for the first time on Friday. He said the event was full of "energy.
"A lot of times, we have these things and a lot of people don't participate," Burke said. "All the people here seem really enthusiastic to be here. A lot of times, [seniors] get retired and just stay at home. By coming out here ... they may be inspired to change their mind."
Andre Mackey, south metro district pharmacy supervisor for CVS Pharmacy, said he enjoyed the cultural diversity and fellowship associated with the event.
"It's wonderful to see that people who are seniors can thrive and have a good time," Mackey said. "You don't just stop living because you are a senior. This event proves that."