In April, the Payson Regional Senior Circle Association celebrated its fourth anniversary of promoting health and wellness among Payson's mature population.
Senior Circle, which is affiliated with Payson Regional Medical Center, has much to celebrate with its booming membership, which has now topped 800, and an expanding range of services.
Senior Circle director Corey Houghton has been instrumental in filling many of the community's voids in services for seniors.
"My job is to look for the holes," Houghton said. "And our increase in membership has allowed us to broaden our services to the community."
Membership in Senior Circle is available to anyone 50 years and older at a cost of $15 a year and allows access to benefits provided by the national program.
"I call it the AARP component," Houghton said. "The benefits include access to an emergency response system, prescription discounts, travel discounts and VIP treatment at any of the 60 hospitals affiliated with the Senior Circle program."
Offering an array of exercise classes, support groups, and informational seminars on health and wellness, Senior Circle hopes to encourage people over 50 to become pro-active advocates for themselves and their well-being.
"We know that exercise is very important and Senior Circle offers nine exercise classes and we are always trying to get people into them," Houghton said.
Maintaining physical strength, balance and flexibility is why Senior Circle offers classes in everything from t'ai chi to aquatics.
"A lot of seniors fall every year and get hip fractures," Director Corey Houghton said. "Hospitals have around 300,000 admissions for broken hips every year and falling is most often the cause."
In addition to exercise classes, Senior Circle has support groups and informational sessions.
"We have our diabetic support group and speaker series on the second Wednesday of every month," Houghton said.
"Our cancer support group meets every Friday and that is open not only to those suffering from cancer, but those in remission and family members, too," Houghton said.
On the last Wednesday of every month, senior circle has a medical professional lecture on different issues relating to cancer.
The latest addition to the array of support groups is one for those suffering from fibromyalgia.
The support groups, Houghton said, are open to anyone in the community and are free. If it is part of the speaker series, the cost is $2 for members and $3 for non-members, which is mainly for the included meal.
Senior Circle's health and wellness component also includes monthly health screenings in which they test cholesterol, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight and other important indicators.
"We did a men's health fair in June -- everything I did in June was for men," Houghton said. "There is so much stuff out there for women, and not much for men."
Houghton referred to the problem of low testosterone in men, one of the symptoms of male menopause.
"Men can go through something like menopause with low testosterone, depression, hot flashes," Houghton said. "If a woman has low estrogen, her doctor will recommend something -- but men are told to just buck up and bare it while there are now medications that can help."
Assisting seniors with navigating the complex world of health care and insurance is an important service.
"I have a folder full of information on different prescription discount cards available," Houghton said. "And you don't have to be destitute to qualify for many of these cards."
"My job is to gather information and give it to people so they can educate themselves and make informed decisions," Houghton said. "Sometimes just knowing what's out there can alleviate stress for seniors concerned about their budget."
Senior Circle avails its members to an online service called "Benefits Checkup." The service, provided by the National Council on Aging, allows seniors to see what state and federal benefits they might qualify for.
"People can come to our office and fill out a questionnaire -- name and social security number are not required -- and leave it with us," Houghton said. "Either I or a volunteer will go online and get the results. They get a list of all the programs with descriptions and toll-free phone numbers."
Senior Circle also created what they call their Medical Loan Closet. With assistance from Rotary, RTA Hospice and the Methodist Church, Senior Circle can loan donated medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers to those who need them.
The need for this service is so great that Senior Circle has to constantly work to replenish their supply. Senior Circle currently has more than 600 pieces of equipment on loan in the community and welcomes donations.
"The idea is for the equipment to be kept for around six months to a year," Houghton said. "So, I'd like to remind anyone who still has a piece of our equipment to return it if they are no longer using it."
Senior Circle's newsletter, Circle News, comes out every couple of months and is a wealth of information. The newsletter lists travel opportunities ranging from stateside journeys such as "The Civil War Trail" to "Great Trains, Wineries and Cultures of Australia and New Zealand."
The newsletter includes a schedule of classes and events and even some financial advice from certified senior advisor Tom Russell.
Houghton also stressed that non-members and people from out of town are welcome to any of the Senior Circle activities and programs. Fees may be charged for some classes, but they are nominal.
Houghton has even more services to offer in the future.
"I'd like to get a Senior Net here," Houghton said. "Senior Net is an organization that helps communities set up a program designed just for seniors to learn computers.
Houghton's ambition and dedication to the welfare of Rim country's seniors has led to expanding services and membership. She credited a supportive board and hard-working volunteers for Senior Circle's growth and success.
Looking at entering senior years with a positive attitude is something senior circle encourages.
"I am always looking at other senior programs around the country, and I found this quote that I just love. It says, ‘You are invited to join a club so exclusive, it takes 50 years to become a member' -- what a great thing to be able to tell someone.
"So many hospitals and communities are getting these senior programs going," Houghton said. "They are saying, ‘We do value you and we want your senior years to be healthy and productive years.' Being a senior is not a bad thing. It takes 50 years to get into that club and we need to enjoy it when we get there."
For more information about Payson Senior Circle, call 468-1012.