By Danielle Church
Harker Heights Herald
The biggest challenge of keeping Harker Heights senior citizens happy is "finding things that the younger older adults want to do," said Senior Recreation Program volunteer Joyce Mayer.
The Senior Recreation Program, originally coined 55 Up, was started by Mayer some 22 years ago at a time when the city of Harker Heights lacked activities geared toward seniors.
"At the first meeting we had, we had about 100 (people) attend," Mayer said.
Upon bringing up the idea to the city, letters were dispersed to hundreds of potential attendees and the next week their first meeting was held.
Of the original bunch, Mayer said about 15 of the seniors are still alive today, but are mostly homebound.
Marilyn Blankinship, 79, of Harker Heights, is the exception, and has been a part of the program since its inception.
"You come and do what you want to do," Blankinship said. "That's what I like about the center."
In 2004, the senior program began meeting at the Harker Heights Recreation Center on Miller's Crossing after their original building burned down. Mayer said they lost almost everything in the fire, but have since replenished their closets and now offer more than 13 different activities such as Bingo, Pickle Ball and quilting. They also embark on monthly day trips for the seniors.
"I firmly believe that for older adults to take part in a socialization program it makes them healthier, helps them maintain independence, and live longer lives," Mayer said.
One of the most popular activities among the seniors today is line dancing.
"It seems to appeal to the widest variety of people," Mayer said. "This group is interested in more active activities."
On Tuesday afternoon, Blankinship was one of many strutting her stuff on the gymnasium floor among fellow line dancers.
"I just feel fortunate I can be able to come do this," she said.
Another senior, Fran Wilson, said she originally joined back in 1996 because she had been a line dancer herself.
And though she is no longer able to take part in it, she said she likes participating in other exercise-related activities offered at the center.
"I've enjoyed these exercises," she said. "I'd love to get back (to line dancing) and maybe one day I will."
Another fairly new program that has proven to be rather popular is the Arm Chair Travelers, which has taken the seniors across the world without ever having to leave the city.
Mayer said the group watches videos that depict a variety of different countries around the globe and organizes the chairs in the room to give it "that airplane feel."
"They take a flight and go through all the motions of a trip," she said.
Snacks and the repetitive dialogue of "please fasten your seatbelt" are all included.
Their next trip will keep them stateside as they take a drive down the East Coast while watching the video, "America's Most Scenic Drives."
Membership for the senior program is labeled for the senior citizen age group, but Mayer said almost anyone is welcome.
"In some ways we limit, but not always," she said. "If people get along with older adults, and seniors get along with them, we welcome mature adults."
She said the program has about 300 people registered, and are continually welcoming new members.
Annual registration is $8 per person, or $10 for two people in the same household. Most activities offered are free of charge.
To register, or to find out more information, contact Joyce Mayer at (254) 554.2674.
Contact Danielle Church at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7567.