By Sarah Plummer
The Raleigh County Commission on Aging serves around 3,500 seniors annually, a growing, diverse and inter-generational group with a wide spectrum of needs, according to Executive Director Jack Tanner.
“The most interesting thing about the services we provide here is that they are not the most important things for our seniors; it is the opportunity to spend time with their friends and to have some place to go — to call their own,” he said.
The Commission on Aging’s best-known services are its nutrition and transportation programs.
Lunch is provided for around 120 individuals, five days a week, on site in Beckley, but they also provide lunch to between 75 and 80 seniors living at Manor House and Wildwood House, senior citizen apartment complexes, said Tanner.
The center also provides an average of six meals per week to 175 seniors living in and around the Beckley area who can’t get out to get a meal and have no one living in the home to help them prepare a meal, he said.
Additionally, meals are taken to nutrition sites in Coal City and Pettus once a week.
“We are well known for the transportation program, transporting seniors to the center for any of the activities going on, for lunch, and then we take them home,” he explained.
Once a week, drivers take seniors to the grocery store, pharmacy, post office and other errands.
Tanner said three drivers are available all day during the week for these transports, and a fourth is employed each day to take seniors to non-emergency medical appointments.
Beyond these two well-known programs, the center has over 200 homemakers who provide in-home services to keep seniors independent and out of alternative care, he said.
At the Beckley center on South Kanawha Street, the Commission on Aging provides adult daycare services. If a senior’s normal care provider has to be out of the home, they can bring the senior to the center and get care throughout the day, he explained.
There are typically six to eight seniors in the adult daycare center.
Seniors can use a computer lab with Internet access at the Beckley center, and a social worker is on site to “help them with any kind of personal issues they may have,” Tanner said.
Also housed on-site is a senior medical clinic staffed five days a week with a registered nurse through New River Health Association and a family nurse practitioner is available to see patients two and a half days a week, he said.
In addition to the food, transportation and health services, the Raleigh County Commission on Aging provides other types of programs to meet the needs of their seniors 60 and up.
“We have grown to meet the needs of the Baby Boomers. As each generation evolves, there is a different interest and a different need. We are finding more than anything else, that the Baby Boomers are a more active group of seniors,” Tanner said.
The fitness center typically sees around 80 individuals a week use the exercise equipment and participate in health and wellness activities.
“We are certainly working on building up the types of heath and wellness activities we offer. We currently have as many as 25 to 35 individuals who come in twice a week to do line dancing,” he said.
Another popular program has been history classes taught by a retired school teacher. Around 40 participants have been taking history classes in West Virginia and U.S. history, he said. Participants in this group take trips to historic locations across the state that relate to what they have learned.
The center itself is also used by organizations, like retirement groups, whose members are seniors.
Moreover, the space can be rented for group gatherings, birthday parties and wedding receptions, he said Tanner. Catering is also available for these types of events.
“The thing we try to emphasis and want everyone to understand is that the senior center is not a place that is closed or exclusive to any one group of senior citizens,” Tanner added.
“The senior center is open to anyone 60 and over who wants to come in, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and take advantages of the services we have to offer.”
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