Senior Moments

Living the good life under the Mogollon Rim

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"Between the Payson Senior Center and the Senior Circle, this area's seniors have all the services and activities they could possible need," gushes retiree Rosalind Schuerer, who was among the very first members of both organizations.

Now the president of the Senior Circle board, Schuerer's enthusiasm is genuine. This Payson retiree, like hundreds of others in the Rim country, takes full advantage of her dual affiliations.

And there's a lot of advantage to take.

The Senior Circle

The Senior Circle is a growing, national, nonprofit organization of 60 chapters around the United States. About 650 Rim country members aged 50 and over, and more than 20,000 in North America, enjoy social activities, wellness and exercise programs, exclusive member-only benefits, discounts and more, offered by Payson Regional Medical Center's Senior Circle chapter.

Under the direction of Circle Advisor Cory Houghton, the Senior Circle offers a generous menu of social activities, health and wellness programs and countless invaluable services a list which only begins with free insurance-claim filing assistance; retirement and financial planning seminars; annual flu shots; exercise classes; regularly scheduled health screenings; mail order pharmacy discounts; guest "Doc Talks" by expertsfrom the fields of health and nutrition, wellness, fashion and gardening; impressive discounts on travel, hotels, car rentals and hard-cover books; and plenty of volunteer opportunities.

"That's just a little window of what we're doing here," said Houghton, who adds that the program's ever-increasing attractions have helped to grow its membership from about 100 in 2000 to the current head count of 650.

The program sprang to life locally about three-and-a-half years ago, Houghton said, when Community Health Systems, which operates PRMC, decided to initiate a senior program at each of their hospitals.

"So they developed this Senior Circle, a nonprofit but not tax-exempt association which is supported primarily by PRMC," Houghton said. 'We don't compete with the Payson Senior Center. It's our job to get out there and find out what the seniors need aside from what's already happening in the community.And our top priority is making sure that they stay healthy and that they are getting the care they need."

For all of these benefits and much more, a Senior Circle membership costs only $15 per year, or $27 for two individuals who sign up together.

The Circle Ambassadors, Senior Circle's volunteer force, are key to the program's success and the local chapter is always looking for people who want to make a difference in their community by donating their time and talents.

For more information, call Houghton weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 468-1012, or visit her at 215 N. Beeline Highway. Afternoons, phone the Senior Circle Member Services toll-free at (800) 211-4148.

The Payson Senior Center

When the Payson Senior Center started its "Meals on Wheels" program in 1979, one year after the organization's inception, a grand total of 11 airliner-style frozen meals were served.

Today, more than 100 seniors participate and the food has undergone a vast improvement, too, according to Irene Stokes Neff, the woman who was the center's director from 1979 to 1989.

The Senior Center now offers endless activities for older area residents including card-playing nights, live music, dancing, woodcarving, aerobics, Bible study, computer classes, free income tax and legal assistance, social events, guest speakers ... and shopping and concert treks to the Valley in the center's own bus, driven by it's own driver.

And since the early 1980s, the Senior Center Thrift Shop has not just offered bargain buys to everyone in the community; it also paid off the mortgage on the organization's longtime home a former roller-skating rink on Main Street, just west of the old Payson Public Library.

Still, the Senior Center's primary mission has not changed: delivering hot, well-balanced meals to homebound seniors five times a week.

"We deliver their meals by bus, and pick up those who don't drive anymore, which is a very important service because the town doesn't have any bus service," Rosalind Schuerer said. "We take them to the doctor, to do their shopping, or anywhere they need to go. I'm telling you, this place is just fantastic."

One of the most popular destinations, it turns out, is the Senior Center itself.

Thanks to the federal funding and community donations that keep it alive, the center is now a mecca for about 244 seniors.

"To the older senior citizens, which includes me, this is a meeting place, a place to socialize," Elaine Drorbaugh said. "They can come here and participate in the activities in an atmosphere where they will not feel like they're being pushed aside. They feel more at home here than in the outside."

Marsha Cauley, the center's director, agreed and offered an explanation.

"This is a place of enjoyment and love-sharing," Neff added. "Everyone who comes here is made to feel comfortable and welcome. Everyone receives nourishment in mind, body and spirit. What more do you need?"

The Payson Senior Center, at 514 W. Main Street, is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call Marsha Cauley at 474-4876.

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