HOGANSVILLE — Herald Todd lets out a grumble and an “oh shoot” each time his number isn’t called during Thursday’s bingo game at the Hogansville Senior Center; moments later he yells out “bingo” and wins a bird feeder.
It’s a competitive game among competitive members, and Todd is a lively addition at his table, making jokes that keep his competition laughing while they wait for the next game to start.
Ruth Martin, who stayed for lunch after the bingo game, said the center is an important place for her because it gives her company during the day. She lives alone and said it’s important to be around other people.
Todd chimed in and jokingly said his daughter kicks him out of the house each day.
“It’s a place to go in Hogansville,” said Pam Cox. “It’s a nice place to come to to talk to people, eat good food.”
Changes are coming to the Hogansville Senior Center soon, including new activities, new looks, new personnel and possibly a new name, according to a county official.
“It’s a new era for this center,” said Dan Wooten, Troup County director of aging services. “It’s a new start, a new beginning. We’re not looking behind, we’re looking ahead at the needs of older adults in this community and trying to say, ‘How can we best meet those needs to keep our older adult population healthy and active and making a different?’”
With this new era comes the need for a new site manager, he added.
“We’re trying to find a person with great energy and compassion for older adults,” Wooten said. “After we get that person in place, I’ll work with that person, not only to train them, but to add new programs.”
Wooten said the term “senior center” is a bit of a misnomer and it conjures images of elderly adults, but the center is designed for people 55 years old and older.
The new programs he has in mind are aimed at getting these people out and about, moving and with each other’s company.
“We don’t want to have any barriers,” he said.
New travel programs are designed for members of the center to take day trips once a month. The idea is for members to meet in the morning, travel around two hours by bus and return that evening. Some overnight trips are being discussed as well.
“That trip would be like to Atlanta and would include the aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola,” Wooten said. “There’s all types of wonderful events that take place.
“We would even take trips up to Chattanooga (Tennessee),” Wooten continued. “I’m going to be taking a group to the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia. We’re also taking a North Georgia leaves and apples trip and going on a train in North Georgia. So, the sky’s the limit. … One of the centerpieces of all our trips is that we go to a great restaurant to eat.
“… It’s kind of a disguised exercise,” he admits. “We’re getting out there, like when we go to the state fair we’re going to put a lot of miles on our ‘puppies,’ but it’s fun.”
The trips are also designed to be low cost to members.
Health is important to the center, Wooten said. An exercise room has been added with several treadmills, exercise bikes, medicine balls and a weight machine for members to use free of charge. A Tai Chi class also will be coming to the center, he said.
Center attendee Barbara Yates said she started taking advantage of the exercise equipment after having surgery.
“This is my third day,” she said Thursday while using the equipment. “But I really like it.”
Healthy meals planned by a nutritionist are served daily at 11:30 a.m. Some meals are delivered to members who aren’t able to make it to the center, but the center serves more than 40 members a day.
“There’s a lot more that come and eat lunch each day,” said Dana Martin, a home health worker who volunteers at the center. “They do feed a lot because a lot more people do come and eat, they don’t play the games but they do come and eat.”
Because of this, Wooten hopes to find a site manager with at least two years of food-service experience.
“We have a serving line and (watch) how portions are handled, so each tray gets the same amount,” Wooten said. “We are very cautious about protecting our kitchens from foodborne illnesses. So, food safety — the way you handle food, the way you store food — is key. At the Active Life (Center in LaGrange) our team has a perfect 100 score the last several years from the health inspection because we take it very seriously.”
The responsibilities of the site manager will include planning programs and activities, filling out reports, ensuring the maintenance of the building, overseeing food services and interacting with members.
“We’re trying to find a person with great energy and compassion for older adults,” Wooten said.
Volunteers are also needed at the center, Wooten said. Individuals are needed to call bingo, lead fitness classes, teach arts and crafts classes and every area imaginable to be able to provide services for older adults.
“We believe our function is to help keep the older adult population healthy and active,” he said. “Because it not only benefits the center, but it benefits the whole community because they go and they serve in their churches, they go and they serve in hospitals, they serve in nonprofit agencies throughout the community. We believe that what we’re doing will have an impact on the overall health of the whole community.”
The center is set to get new paint throughout, and Wooten said he is looking to update the media room with a new flat-screen TV, computers and Nintendo Wii.
“A computer or two would be nice,” Yates said. “They have a computer room at the (center) in LaGrange.”
The traditional activities — like bingo, dominoes, GED classes — are still available to members. On Nov. 2 a seminar about Medicare plans will be presented by Georgia Cares.
Membership to the center is free to all adults over the age of 55.
Any one interested in being a candidate for the site manager should apply through the Department of Labor.
Qualifications for the job include having at least a high school diploma or GED, computer skills and able to drive a 32-passenger bus. Management experience and a CDL are preferred.
James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154. Follow him on Twitter at @jmorton_LDN.