Living life to its fullest

Living life to its fullest
By CASEY CURLIN Messenger Writer The front doors open automatically into a small glass-lined hallway at the Eddie Cox Senior Center on Depot Street in downtown Union City. To the right, more glass doors open to a small office area with several desks placed around the room. Obion County Senior Citizens director Margaret Shannon Cook enters the office with a big smile and warm greeting. A homemade patchwork quilt hangs on a wall near that office, possibly the work of a talented patron. The office is littered with bags of Mexican-style decorations. As Ms. Cook immediately begins riffling through a stack of papers on her desk, she explains that they are for a Mexican fiesta and then she immediately goes into a description of the many other activities offered at the center: luaus, live music, line dancing, video games, cruises and day trips, Senior Olympics competition — not exactly activities one would expect to participate in at a senior center. According to Ms. Cook, the senior center boasts an array of events and activities for all senior citizens to take part in. Already this year, the center has had a western-themed dinner theater and a Hawaiian luau. The Mexican fiesta, with a live performance of Jimmy Buffet music by Larry Morgan, is planned for Monday. Seniors also recently competed in the Northwest District Tennessee Senior Olympics and are preparing for the state level. “We’re just busy, busy, busy,” says Ms. Cook. The senior center’s monthly calendar lists several weekly events, including bingo on Mondays, shopping on Tuesdays, bridge and canasta on Thursdays and line dancing on Fridays, to name a few. A list of events is printed each Wednesday in The Messenger’s Friends and Neighbors section. A new celebrated activity involves the popular video game system known as Wii. To use the Wii system, players hold remotes that control the movements of characters on the TV screen. The remotes must be physically moved to move the characters. To make a character on the game swing a tennis racket, the player must swing the remote like he would a tennis racket. The seniors play several games on the Wii such as tennis, boxing, baseball, bowling, darts and golf. “I like the boxing game myself, but the men really get in there and play baseball a lot,” says Ms. Cook. The Jackson Oaks Senior Center in Jackson has even challenged the Obion County Senior Citizens Center to a Wii bowling match that is scheduled to take place on July 31. Line dancing classes are taught by Liz Saddler of Weakley County every Friday at 10 a.m. Seniors participate in learning the waltz, the Charleston, reggae, country line dances and the Virginia reel. Scheduled craft times are also held twice a month, and seniors can make cards, calendars and anything else that they are moved to create. Craft supplies are purchased with donations. However, the senior center is much more than fun and games. According to an informational booklet, the agency also offers many services to help the elderly in physical, nutritional and psychological ways. In addition to exercise classes four times weekly and monthly health education classes, the center also provides volunteers who go on regularly scheduled visits to the homes of older senior participants. There is a telephone reassurance service, with volunteers calling the senior participants three times weekly to make certain that they are well and to provide psychological reassurance. Respite care is provided to assist mentally or physically disabled participants with daily living activities. During this time, those seniors’ regular caregivers receive a short time of rest or freedom, up to four hours per week. A public transportation service is even available to transport seniors to events. Those who need the service may simply call the toll free number, (877) 55-Rides or (877) 557-4337. Bringing seniors into the center is a top priority for Ms. Cook. “We really try to go out and make contact,” she says. The center has a daily bingo game in which one bingo number is randomly selected per day. The seniors keep up with the game on their own cards but they must visit the center or call a friend who has been to the center that day to get the number. In this way, more interaction is required to play the game. The winner of daily bingo receives an afghan. The building housing the Eddie Cox Senior Center was donated by local businessman Michael Cox in 2003 and is named after his late father. Its years of operation have undoubtedly made a difference to those seniors who have participated in its activities or benefited from its generous services. The glass-lined hallways and offices are the places seniors find assistance they need, but it is the participating seniors themselves, and the volunteers and administrators at the Eddie Cox Senior Center, who make good things happen. “I’ve been here 15 years, and I love it so much,” says Ms. Cook. ——— Editor’s note: Casey Curlin of Fulton is a communications major at the University of Tennessee at Martin and an intern at The Messenger. Published in The Messenger 6.25.08

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