Instead Of Growing Old ... The Senior Center

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For the retired elderly, loneliness can be a daily struggle. Fortunately, in Payson, there's always a place to go, Monday through Friday -- the Payson Senior Center.

A small group of seniors meet at the center each morning just to get out of the house and share some conversation.

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On Monday morning, a group gathered at the Payson Senior Center to play cards, listen to music and have good conversation. For many, the Senior Center is a "home away from home."

"If we didn't come here, we would sit in our chair (at home) and grow old," said Penny Mayer, adding that a bus picks her at 9 a.m. at her home and takes her to the Center. She returns home at about 1 p.m.

Evelyn Wright said she comes to the Center for the camaraderie of her friends.

Betty Hendrickson said she, too, has been coming to the Senior Center on a consistent basis for the last 18 months.

"I am alone," she said. "I board the bus at 9 a.m. and I go home after the lunch at 1 p.m.

"I am by myself. I come here to eat and visit."

Mayer said she can sit alone at her home on Saturdays and Sundays when the Center is not open.

"It's good to be with people," she said. She and her friends mostly talk and sing when getting together.

Hendrickson said she enjoys all of the things that are going on at the Senior Center, especially activities like line dancing.

She said some seniors come to play cards, while others play music, which is what was happening Monday morning as an informal band of musicians took the stage.

But not everyone wanted to sit still. Some seniors come to the Center for the exercise classes.

Donna Tyrell said she started exercising with senior aerobics and has started exercising through the line dancing that is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"You get out there, and you have fun for an hour," she said.

Senior Center Director Marcia Cauley said the Center is a second home for many of the seniors.

"We are a place of activity for them," she said. "We are the only game in town for these people."

She said a lot of the work the Center does is outside its building.

She said one of the biggest things it does is deliver meals to 107 homebound seniors Monday through Friday.

"We package them and make them here," she said.

Cauley said a majority of the 250 membership come into the Center to eat, depending on what is on the lunch menu. Lunches cost $3.

"It helps them stretch their budget," she said. "Every meal has to provide them with one-third of their daily nutritional requirement."

For those who can no longer drive, the Center provides the seniors with transportation.

Cauley said for $4, members will be transported to various locations.

"We will take them anywhere in Payson that they want to go," she said.

Mayer said the transportation aspect is huge for seniors like herself who can no longer get behind the wheel.

Cauley also mentioned the free legal services that are offered to seniors once a month through the Pinal Gila Council.

She said a lot has changed in the Center's existence of 25 years.

"When it started out it was very small," she said -- only three meals were delivered back then.

Cauley said the Senior Center is a place where people can go to seek help when they have nowhere else to go.

"This is their family," she said. "We are like a clearinghouse of information for seniors here."

-- To reach Michael Maresh call 474-5251 ext. 112 or e-mail mmaresh@payson.com

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