Senior field trips offer social time (WITH PHOTO GALLERY)

Ducks visit a group of Butts County senior citizens during a recent senior center trip to Noah’s Ark. (Staff Photo: Beverly Harvey)

Ducks visit a group of Butts County senior citizens during a recent senior center trip to Noah’s Ark. (Staff Photo: Beverly Harvey)

Jackson residents John and Judy Woodruff enjoyed seeing all of the animals — from tigers to tortoises — at Noah’s Ark in Locust Grove during a recent Butts County Leisure Services Senior Center field trip.

The group of about 30 senior citizens didn’t have to wait long to have an animal encounter during their trip to Noah’s Ark on April 1. While waiting to have lunch in the picnic area before exploring the exhibits, they were visited by a peacock and a group of ducks.

The nonprofit animal sanctuary in Henry County was one of the many places the seniors have visited during their monthly field trips that, so far, have spanned as far away as an apple orchard in north Georgia to closer to home at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon.

In addition to sightseeing, the field trips give the seniors the chance to dine at a variety of places, such as The Varsity in Atlanta and Old Times Country Buffet in Macon.

Once every three months, the destination for the field trips is determined by members of the Senior Pals Club, a group at the Butts County Senior Center. The Senior Pals Club collects monthly dues of $3 and meets once per month.

“We decide where we’re going to go when we have enough money,” said Senior Pals Club President Jean Alexander, who noted that about 35 seniors attend each field trip.

Butts County residents ages 50 and older can attend the field trips after registering, free of charge, with the Senior Center, which is located at 580 Ernest Biles Drive in Jackson.

Seniors don’t have to be a Senior Pals Club member to attend the group’s quarterly field trips. If space is available, any senior who is registered with the Senior Center can attend Senior Pals Club field trips.

For each field trip, seniors can either pay to eat out at a restaurant or opt to have a free sack lunch provided by the Senior Center. Seniors are also responsible for paying for any admission fees, which vary depending on the destination.

There was no admission charged at Noah’s Ark. A number of the seniors, however, opened their wallets and purses to provide donations to the animal sanctuary.

Field trips like the one to Noah’s Ark provide senior citizens an opportunity to learn new things, to socialize, and to improve their health and well-being, said Butts County Senior Center Site Manager Chrissy Crabtree.

“Some of our seniors are by themselves. They’re widowed,” Crabtree said. “This allows them to go to new places or places they haven’t been to in a while.”

During the Noah’s Ark field trip, the seniors were able to talk at length during their picnic lunch of boxed meals from Captain D’s. Some of the seniors took photos of the visiting ducks.

After lunch, the seniors got to explore Noah’s Ark on their own and headed in two directions to view the numerous animal exhibits and walk along the winding trails.

Clima Calhoun came to an exhibit with an animal that favored a rabbit, but it didn’t have long ears or a bushy tail. She and Crabtree found a sign on the other side of its enclosure to learn its name and details about the exotic animal — a Patagonian cavy.

A sign in the tortoises’ exhibit that listed the various foods they are fed, which include grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, corn on the cob, bell peppers, dandelions and boiled eggs, was interesting to John and Judy Woodruff.

After more than an hour of exploring Noah’s Ark, the seniors regrouped at the visitors’ center just before it was time to leave in the early afternoon.

Crabtree attends many of the Butts County Senior Center’s field trips. She joined a group of seniors at Noah’s Ark viewing the animal exhibits, taking their photographs and providing wheelchair assistance, when needed.

“I enjoy going on trips with them because it gives me the opportunity to spend time with the seniors one on one,” she said. “It’s a good way to connect with them.”