Rim Country's Senior Citizens Well Served

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It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out there are a lot of retirees and senior citizens in Rim country. All one has to do is look around -- at the grocery store, any of our many churches, the library, Green Valley Park, your own neighborhood. It is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the population of Payson is over the age of 55.

The predominant hair color is gray, and the faces may be wrinkled, but this group is far from ready to spend the rest of their days sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. And among the reasons so many of us have opted to spend our Golden Years in Payson is the abundance of organizations dedicated to providing services for seniors.

"Helping enrich the lives of our seniors through friendship, activities, nourishment, transportation and education" is the mission statement of the Payson Multi-Purpose Senior Center at 514 W. Main Street. To those ends, the center provides nutritious noon meals five days a week in the center's dining room, and also delivers Meals on Wheels to another 75 persons who are homebound.

The Senior Center is the only organization in town offering low-cost transportation to and from shopping, medical and dental appointments, social events and virtually anywhere in Payson that those with no other means of transportation wish to go. The vans run from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at a cost of $4 round trip. There are also vehicles that are wheelchair accessible at a minimal additional cost.

Activities at the center include aerobics, Bible study, singing, wood carving, pool, music therapy and various card games. Once a month, an attorney from the Pinal/Gila Council for Seniors is available to assist those in need of legal advice. This service is offered on a donation basis. Free, informative seminars on subjects of interest to seniors are presented periodically. Movies are shown twice a month at no charge.

The center is a designated emergency station, and has the capability to feed and house as many as 100 persons in an emergency situation, for up to three days. In addition, a 26-passenger bus with wheelchair access is available in the event evacuation is needed. In conjunction with the Pinal-Gila Council, vans and drivers also are on call to assist.

Persons aged 55 and over may become members of the Senior Center. Cost of membership is $10 a year. At present, there are approximately 150 members. The telephone number is (928) 474-4876.

The center is administered by an 11-member board. Board meetings are at 9:30 a.m. the third Thursday of each month and are open to the public. Funding for the nonprofit organization comes from a variety of sources: the Senior Thrift Store, next door to the center at 512 W. Main Street, is a major source of funds, as are the Town of Payson, The Pinal/Gila Council for Seniors, membership dues and meal fees, grants and donations. More than 30 volunteers contribute their time and efforts to keep the center and thrift store running smoothly. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; the thrift store, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 3 p.m. Saturday.

Director Marsha Cauley invites interested persons to stop in any weekday morning for a complimentary cup of coffee or tea and a tour of the facility. When asked what she would like most, should the genie come out of the bottle to grant her a wish, her reply was instantaneous: "New interior paint job and new carpeting!"

Serving a smaller population, but no less enthusiastic and dedicated, the Senior Citizens Affairs Foundation (SCAF) of Pine and Strawberry is committed to enhancing "the enjoyment and well-being of our senior citizens." Like their colleagues to the south, they serve a hot lunch, plus a salad bar, at noon Monday through Friday in their dining room on Highway 87 in Pine. Members of SCAF pay $3.50 for lunch; $5 for non-members. Meals on Wheels are available for those who are homebound, whether temporarily or on a long-term basis. SCAF President Bruce Thompson says this is a service they would like to expand, and invites interested persons to call SCAF at (928) 476-2151 for more information.

Anyone age 50 and older may join SCAF. Annual dues are $5 a year; members and prospective members are encouraged to join during the annual membership drive in January, although membership is open at any time.

SCAF is fully self-funded and does not receive any government assistance. There primary funding is from their thrift store, located adjacent to the dining room, 3916 N. Highway 87, with additional monies coming from dues, donations, lunch monies and fund-raisers. The organization is administered by a seven-member, elected board of directors who meet at 12:30 p.m. the third Thursday of each month.

The facility is a community meeting place, with the dining room, which seats 60, available for private parties and business meetings. It also is the site of a monthly community pot luck dinner, usually the third Saturday of the month, a food bank drop-off point, and SCAF assists the Red Cross as needed with emergency clothing and food. For those who enjoy playing cards, there is bridge from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays (call 928 476-04511); canasta 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays (928 476-3587), and poker on Monday evenings beginning at 6:30 p.m. (928 476-4902)

The thrift store offers bargain prices on items such as clothing, furniture, books and housewares. Approximately 15 volunteers staff the thrift store and assist in the dining room. All proceeds from the store support the Senior Dining Room and Meals on Wheels.

Another bonus of the facility is that it is one of the few places in the area where those ordered to perform community service may do so locally.

President Bruce Thompson's one wish for SCAF? "More volunteers!"

Payson Regional Senior Circle Association, 215 N. Beeline Highway, is the new kid on the block, having come into Rim country five years ago. This is the only one of the three organizations under the auspices of a national organization: the Senior Circle Association, offered locally through Community Health Systems and The Payson Regional Medical Center. Its mission statement is "to enrich the lives of adults age 50 and over one member at a time, through friendship, exercise and wellness programs, activities, education and discounts."

While its stated goals are similar to both senior centers, its focus is slightly different, which makes it a valuable complement to the pre-existing services.

The Senior Circle offers numerous health and wellness programs including support groups for persons and families coping with diabetes, cancer, fibromyalgia and other diseases; walking and aquatic exercise classes; stress management, wellness seminars and low -- or no -- cost periodic screenings for specific diseases and conditions.

Along with fitness programs, there's a full plate of other benefits. Members receive in-hospital benefits, insurance claims assistance, reduced cost on long-term care insurance, safe driving programs, in conjunction with AARP, and even discussions of financial fitness presented by a certified senior advisor.

Fun and sociability are also a big part of what Senior Circle is about. Line dancing is offered on Tuesday mornings. For those who enjoy games, starting August 18, a once-a-month continental breakfast will be served at the PRMC cafeteria from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and games such as "Encore!" and "Senior Sez" will be played. There are a number of local, national and international travel opportunities offered at nominal prices.

The Payson chapter serves the local community by maintaining a medical loan closet, whereby those in need of things like wheelchairs, walkers, bedside commodes, bath stools and other medical items, can borrow them at no charge, for an indefinite period of time.

Donations of such items in good repair are always welcome.

A six-person board governs the 900-member chapter under the direction of Chapter Advisor Cory Houghton. For information about Senior Circle, call (928) 468-1012 or stop in the office at 215 N. Beeline Highway.

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