Providing seniors more than a free lunch

The month of May not only brings warmer weather, but also the observance of Older Americans Month.

First designated in 1963 during the Kennedy Administration, it was proclaimed Senior Citizens Month. Several years later, President Carter rededicated the month as Older Americans Month. Both administrations had the intention of asking the entire nation to pay tribute in some way to older persons in our country.

Older adults are among our greatest treasures. They make significant contributions to our community, through civic leadership and mentoring, and in our homes, by giving of themselves freely and by sharing their wisdom and experience. Older adults provide us with invaluable links to the past, and can offer wise counsel for the future.

The 2005 Senior Needs Survey, conducted by the United Way of Central Alabama and other community agencies, found that Shelby County is projected to add more than 75,000 residents by 2020. The rate of growth will be 45 percent over this period. The county is expected to grow more in the 65 plus population (165 percent over 15 years) as compared to the under-65 population (34 percent over 15 years). This trend reflects both new residents moving in, and the aging of the current population.

In Shelby County there are six community centers located in Alabaster, Calera, Columbiana, Heardmont Park, Montevallo and Vincent where senior citizens gather each weekday. Although they are known most for the hot, free meals they serve, each center provides a wealth of programs. Above and beyond bingo, dominos and cards, the senior centers provide educational speakers, arts, crafts, exercise programs, dances, pool, tai chi, fellowship and an occasional day trip. Each center is unique to the individuals who attend and their programs vary. Center managers make every effort to provide activities that the community will enjoy. Anyone interested in attending a center may contact the center directly or M4A for more details.

M4A serves as an advocate and focal point for older individuals within the communities of Blount, Chilton, St. Clair, Shelby and Walker Counties. As one of thirteen Area Agencies on Agency, M4A is guided by of the Older American&8217;s Act with support from the Alabama Department of Senior Services (ADSS).

Kelly Flick is the director of operations and program for M4A in Calera.