Harker Heights' 55 Up program gives older residents a place to socialize, have fun

Herald/Steven Doll - Watercolor instructor Joe Friddle of Killeen makes some suggestions to Marianne Miller of Nolanville about her painting during class Wednesday.

By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – Laughter is something that can be heard throughout the recreation center during the week days, but it is not coming from children.

Activities such as a Thursday Scrabble game, a Tuesday line dancing class, a Thursday postcard making class or a Wednesday watercolor painting class all generate laughter that echoes throughout the recreation center. The laughter is from those age 55 and older.

The city's 55 Up Recreation Program for Older Adults serves about 280 people by providing a number of activities for those 55 and older at the recreation center. It provides for a greater social network, mentally stimulating activities and physical activities.

"We offer a lot of active recreations for older adults, and we also offer a lot for your brain," said Joyce Mayer, 55 Up program director. "It is important to keep your brain active."

On Mondays and Thursdays a small portion of those who use the 55 Up program play Scrabble.

Typically two games with just four people, said Sue Alton, of Harker Heights who participates in the group.

Last Thursday, the group consisted of Jinny Stell of Harker Heights, Coby Spencer of Harker Heights and Alton.

The three sat around a metal folding table with two Scrabble dictionaries, a spinning Scrabble board and their coffee cups.

"I just like Scrabble," Stell said, before placing some pieces on the board.

"That is just about it," Alton added. "We just like to play."

While the competition was fairly serious, laughing and helping seemed to be allowed.

"I can see two places I can already play if people just don't go in front of me," Spencer said reorganizing her tiles as she laughed.

Moments later, Spencer was taking pieces on and off the board trying to find the best word for seven tiles. She eventually spelled out "sunning" after letting the others see her entire hand.

"Wait a minute, if you have the blank then you can put it in here and make it 'stunning,'" Stell said.

As Spencer laid the blank tile on the board, Stell, Alton and Spencer started to laugh.

"Why I am telling you this?" Stell said.

Both Stell and Alton participate in other activities run by the 55 Up program. Stell takes the line dance classes, quilt classes and takes trips with program. Alton takes the exercise courses and plays bingo.

For them, the program provides a great deal of socializing.

"We wouldn't even know each other if we weren't here (in the program)," Stell said. "It gives us a purpose to get up in the morning."

The watercolor painting class is an activity that's creative, social, physically engaging and offers a great deal of camaraderie, said Joe Friddle, the watercolor painting instructor.

"The important thing is that we have fun with it," Friddle said. "When we first started this class they were like little kids, that tickled me plum to death," he added.

Friddle's class is the only class members have to pay to take, but it is a great, open group of people, Mayer said.

The people in the class laugh, support each other and just genuinely care for one another, Friddle said.

"I came because it doesn't make sense to not do anything at home," said Barbara Lee of Harker Heights. "I came and joined this class and we are like a family here. We always respect each other, we can talk, we can relate, and most of us are in the same age group."

The watercolor painting family shared their laughs and their stories throughout the class.

Probably the most important part of the 55 Up program is the active recreation, Mayer said. The line dancing, square dancing, exercise, pickleball and other activities really help people's health, she added.

Jack Broadway of Bell County shows up to the recreation center twice a week to play pickleball. Typically, about four to six people join him in the gym for the sport.

"I think it is very good for the seniors," Broadway said. "It gives us something to do."

He said he comes for the recreation, because it is good exercise, but the social aspect is nice, too.

"It (pickleball) is a cross between ping-pong and tennis, but more like tennis inside," he said. "It is pretty intense and a fast-paced game where you have to have pretty good reflexes. We typically play doubles, so we don't have to run as much."

The 55 Up program will have its 20th birthday this year. The program was started by Mayer at a time when Harker Heights had nothing for seniors.

Contact Mason W. Canales at mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7554.

55 Up program activities

Scrabble time at 8:30 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays

Watercolor painting

at 10 a.m. Wednesdays

Square dance group at 1:30 p.m. Mondays

Once a month lunch bunch at 11:15 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month

Advanced line dancing at 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays

Stampin' up class (a postcard making class) at 9 a.m. Thursdays

Exercise at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

The reader's exchange at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month

Beginner line dancing at 10:15 a.m. Tuesdays

Luncheon & birthdays at 11:30 a.m. Thursdays (reservations required)

World's greatest religions at 11:15 a.m. Tuesdays

Brain games at 11:30 a.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Pickleball at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Thurs afternoon strippers (a advance quilting class) at 12:30 p.m. Thursdays

Woodcarving at 12 p.m. Tuesdays

Bingo at 1 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month

Quiltmaking 101 (for beginners) 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Monthly day trips

The 55 Up program meets at the Harker Heights Recreation Center, 307 Miller's Crossing.

Annual cost is $8 per person or $10 for two at the same address. There may be an additional small charge for monthly trips or other activities.

Contact mpranch@earthlink.net or call Joyce Mayer at (254) 554-2674 for more information.

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