Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer
Corn hole, cutouts, cuttin’ up, and dressed up – a fitting description for the activities at Senior Celebration 2018 at Western Carolina University. Whether able-bodied, walker- or wheelchair-bound, regional honorees ages 60 and up shared some level of merriment, and the western-themed event proved to be a hit.
It was a short-lived journey that yielded a long-lasting experience for about 65 seniors from Crawford Senior Center, who traveled to WCU on Friday, Sept. 7.
“The day was filled with multiple offerings for the seniors, including several local vendors, entertainment, informational in-services, vision testing, exercise sessions and bingo,” said Rhonda Blanton, representative for Macon County Department of Social Services/Senior Services – Community Resource Center.
Blanton expressed special thanks to Western Carolina University for hosting the event. Region A’s Southwestern Commission Area Agency on Aging (SCAAA) presented the event in collaboration with WCU’s Office of Professional Growth and Enrichment, Mountain Projects, the counties of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood County, Macon, Jackson, and Swain, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
According to WCU: “Senior Celebration is a day set aside to honor older adults ages 60 and up in the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina for the past 25 years through the efforts of staff at Tsali Manor of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In continuing this tradition, agencies that support older adults across the region have joined together to revive this wonderful event.”
The goal was to give back to seniors who have given much over the years. It was one day, but the appreciation was ten-fold. At every turn, seniors were greeted warmly and catered to by volunteers from Region A, staff from respective senior centers, WCU students and attentive vendors. Seniors were served at their tables a delicious, abundant meal, complete with assorted home-style cookies and a choice of beverages.
As if on cue, after the meal, some pound-shedding activities began. While the band Hill Country had serenaded the crowd with several sets, it was time for some dancing. First, Tangled Foot Stompers from Bryson City and Line Dancers from Jackson County Senior Center demonstrated their skills. Then, the dancers invited audience participation in several numbers from bluegrass to country and rock-n-roll. Some seniors needed no prompting and were on their feet engaging others to join and eliciting cheers from peers and students. After the “free-stylers” returned to their seats, everyone joined in a hilarious set of table square dancing.
Emcee Larry Reeves, LTC (Long Term Care) Ombudsman for Southwestern Commission, kept the crowd in good spirits, and his story-telling was a special treat. Reeves also facilitated Bingo prizes and door prizes donated by individuals, senior centers, vendors, and sponsors.
A healthful lifestyle for seniors was encouraged in many ways including: nutritional counseling; fall risk assessments (WCU Department of Physical Therapy and Envolve Benefit Options); free hand and foot massages (Footshines); and free readers and eyeglasses (after screening by Carolina Complete Health).
“To celebrate, highlight and honor older adults from across the region, physical therapy, nutrition, recreational therapy as well as social work students were volunteers, and over 150 students contributed to the event” said Jeanne Mathews, SCAAA Program Coordinator.
“It was fabulous. It was fun. It was collaboration in its best form for Region A,” said Sarajane Melton, SCAAA Director.
With 500 seniors, approximately 22 vendors and staff from all senior centers across the region, it was a day to remember. For information on Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsors who made it possible, visit https://regiona.org/4101-2/