Senior center promotes active lifestyle for senior citizens for nearly 70 years

Life can be lonely for anyone, but seniors seem to fall into that unpleasant place more often than many. Sally Golfman, her son Shawn Hayslette, Brenda Cafferty, and Reba Fleming work to remedy that.    
    The Pendleton County Senior Center, located at 1111 Chipman Street, springs to life each week from Tuesday through Friday to bring fun and information to anyone in the city who is “older” age bracket.
    “You have to be 60 and older to qualify for benefits,” Golfman, the director of the Falmouth Senior Center, explains, “but anyone who is older can come to the activities.”
    Those activities can range from cards to corn hole to line dancing to informational programs and, while the interests of the members have changed, the Center has been around to conduct activities for seniors for nearly 70 years.
    The county’s senior center was the brainchild of Mary Ellen Evans. Evans was a schoolteacher who saw the need for a gathering place for senior citizens across the community. She brought the center into being around 1950. In its earlier years, the members met about once a week, having potlucks and such. They traveled quite a bit during those days, as well.
    As senior needs changed, more services were added—meal programs, public awareness presentations, and exercise programs, to name a few.         Eventually, the center was run by Northern Kentucky Senior Services. That organization folded in the early 2010s, and the Community Action Center took over its support for a while. When David Fields took office as judge executive, he vowed to provide support for the center.
    “The county saved the center,” Golfman confirms.
    Golfman has worked the in the center for about 20 years. She retired from working there at one point, and at another time, she left to work with dispatch, but her love for the center and its people brought her back both times.
    And the seniors’ love for her and her team brings them back.
    By 8:30 a.m. on any Tuesday through Friday, people begin arriving to watch the news, drink coffee, and play Euchre or Rook. (“Sometimes, they just want us to leave them alone all the time and let them play cards,” Golfman laughs.”) A family-type bond is evident as the members walk in the door and take their places at the tables that are spread around the facility. The day starts easily, slowly, happily.
    By 10 a.m., Reba Fleming, a Community Action worker and the activity director for the Center, brings the programming for the day. One day a month, she holds craft time with the members, but for most days, she arranges daily activities that connects the seniors to community services such as diabetes and blood pressure checks or information about topics that are relevant at their time of life. In order to help satisfy their love of card playing, the members can participate in Euchre tournaments twice a month. Businesses and organizations such as Pendleton County Public Library and KORT bring in fun activities and practical help; and, in order that they don’t see only their usual surroundings, seniors are also eligible to go on monthly mystery trips and on trips that they know about, as well.
    Just like the general population, the members need some encouragement to take care of their health, so they have access to an exercise room that contains treadmills, a stationary bike, and elliptical, and other workout equipment.  
    Nutrition needs are addressed, and the program brings incentives with it. “The Pendleton County Extension Office comes to the Center in order to provide nutrition meetings once a month,” Golfman explains. “Those who attend get five days’ worth of hot meal vouchers that can be used at Wyatt’s, but they have to attend the meeting in order to get the vouchers.”
    Twenty-five to 30 seniors attend daily activities, and, according to Golfman, they can top 50 in attendance on the days that the extension office has its nutrition program. A calendar of activities is posted at the center and is also available on the Pendleton County Senior Center’s Facebook page.
    Aside from the age restriction, Golfman stresses that there are no other barriers. “Membership dues are $10 a year, and that goes to pay for supplies that we use such as crafting supplies and paper plates. Other than the dues and the van destination charges or things like that, all activities are free to anyone who comes—as long as they are older.”
    Volunteers are welcome, but they must be 60 and older. They must pass a background check in order to volunteer with the center; also, the van is available for seniors who need to go to appointments or fulfill other needs, and the charge for the service is nominal. Anyone who needs it only needs to contact the Center.
    When you ask Golfman and Hayslette about the goals for their center, Golfman immediately looks to the people, some of whom have been there longer than she has. “We want to make sure they come to learn, to have fun, to be more active,” she replies. She is especially concerned about the newly-widowed seniors who walk in the door—and those who don’t. “We want to help people have a social place, give people a place to be. Our best moments are when we make people happy.”
    And as others walk into the Center, grinning widely and sending verbal jabs at each other and, more often, the staff, the evidence shows that the Center has accomplished many “best moments” over time.
    Golfman acknowledges that fact proudly.
    “We’re just a happy group of people.”