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Rufty-Holmes marks Older Americans Month

By Rick Eldridge

Rufty-Holmes Senior Center

With May being national Older Americans Month, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center seeks to educate the community on its mission as a part of the local human services network.

The mission of Rufty-Holmes is to provide resources for the aging as well as opportunities to extend independent living and enrich the quality of life for Rowan County older adults.

The center provides community-based services for older adult citizens living in their own homes.

The center has been in operation since 1988 serving Rowan with support from federal, state and local government; the United Way; the business community; and private donations. The center has provided services to more than 4,000 older adults in the past nine months.

Community-based services for older adults help them to be as healthy as possible and live as independently as possible and reduce or delay the need for costly acute care. As the older population increases, community-based services are more critical than ever. The number of people 65-plus in Rowan County grew 31.4 percent from the 2000 census to 2010, as opposed to an overall 6.2 percent growth.

Rufty-Holmes offers three program services: the Senior Center, information and assistance and the nutrition program.

The center works to keep older adults (55 and up) active, healthy and engaged in the community. There are exercise facilities and classes available, health programs, personal training and fitness equipment options, health screenings and education, lifelong learning classes and social and recreational programs.

Thirty different clubs and organizations meet at the center, offering a variety of activities. Volunteer and other options allow seniors to be involved with center operations and community service.

The center’s activities are designed to help older adults improve and maintain functional fitness with a focus on improving and maintaining strength, flexibility, endurance, balance and agility. Thirteen different types of exercise classes are offered, in addition to nine types of aquatic classes. More than 1,000 people are active in these classes.

The center is an approved SilverSneakers and Silver & Fit facility, with qualifying older adults approved to take part in these wellness programs for free through their Part C Medicare plans. Clients are physician referred/approved and monitored. The 20,000 square-foot center building includes a 4,000 square foot fitness annex and a 2,000 square foot aquatic exercise facility. The annex has modern exercise equipment chosen by an exercise physiologist. A Wii system is used for recreation and physical coordination.

In addition to cardiovascular or arthritis water exercise classes, open water walking and open pool time is available for those not in classes or wanting extra time in the water. There is also a heated spa available.

The Walk-Abouts has existed since 2005, providing monthly outings for group walks and encouraging participants to walk independently. An Outdoor Adventure Club was established in 2014 to for more rigorous hiking and enjoying the outdoors. There are monthly Brain Games.

Programs to improve health include “A Matter of Balance,” the Arthritis Foundation aquatic exercise program, Arthritis Foundation tai chi, Living Healthy and Living Healthy with Diabetes.

Regular health screenings include blood pressure and hearing, as well as balance, blood sugar, mammogram and memory screenings. Flu and pneumonia vaccines are available at the center and at Lunch Club sites.

Health-related groups meet regularly for educational and emotional support. These include the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, the Better Breathing Club, Health & Fitness Club, Multiple Myeloma Support Group, and a TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) Chapter. Nutrition education is also provided through seminars, cooking classes and presentations at Lunch Club sites.

Lifelong learning includes classes, seminars and group presentations, along with club or organizational meetings. Computer classes have a veteran instructor providing support in small classes. Classes range from Introduction to Computers to Using Social Media. A Computer Club has existed for 20 years, providing a chance to learn special techniques or the latest hardware and software. Club members take turns presenting programs or bringing in outside resources.

Pre-retirement and personal finance classes are available, along with the AARP Driver Safety Program, bridge, memoir-writing, photography and arts and crafts. Special workshops include fraud and crime prevention, digital entertainment, couponing, investment and estate planning sessions, home safety and security workshops, advance care planning seminars and programs on gardening and the environment.

Organizations include the Retired Duke Energy Employees, retired federal government employees, retired school teachers and a group for retired military officers. Special interest groups like AARP, the Council on Aging, the Ambassadors Club, Men’s Breakfast Club and Seniors Without Partners meet at the center, along with over a dozen craft and hobby groups.

A men’s golf association, organized and operating out of the center for 29 years, allows men to play at area courses. Senior softball teams play competitively through the Senior Games program, using the fields at the city sports complex.

Rufty-Holmes has card and board games, bingo, billiards, shuffleboard and chair volleyball. There are monthly bus trips, movies, holiday or theme events, bingo, musical concerts and picnics. Members use the lounge, game room and other amenities. A café in the game room provides snacks and light meals.

Seasonal events include a Valentine’s social, Presidents Day Luncheon, African-American History breakfast, bridge tournament, I-85 Luncheon, Mother’s Day Tea, Golden Anniversary + Luncheon, All-American hot dog luncheon, ice cream social, 9-11 Local Heroes luncheon, Discover America luncheon, Holiday Bazaar and Christmas social.

People may volunteer at the center or with organizations that meet there. Volunteers work with the Ambassadors Club or the Garden Club. Others teach classes, serve on the board or committees and help with seasonal events.

The center works with the Rowan County Council on Aging to help older adults be involved in public affairs – from voter education to serving on community boards and commissions. The council has also developed a Senior Friendly Business Certification Program and a Service to Seniors Awards Program. Candidate forums are held regularly with candidates for Salisbury City Council and Rowan County commissioner.

The Information & Assistance Program advises older adults, caregivers or family members concerning eligibility and enrollment for the aging services in the community. Staff members provide general information and respond to inquiries, but also help navigate the system for those who may not be able to take advantage of the services.

Benefits counseling includes help with enrollment for Medicare Part D, Medicare supplemental insurance plans, and the annual AARP Tax-Aide Program. Over the past year, volunteer Medicare counselors assisted 1,200 clients with supplemental insurance plans and Medicare Part D Plans, saving them more than $421,000 in premiums. During the recent tax season, volunteers prepared more than 800 tax returns, helping them collect more than $600,000 in refunds. Legal services are available through NC Legal Aid Inc. helping clients update wills and estate documents.

A telephone reassurance program, “Are You Okay?” is available free to local seniors living alone. Through local grants, the staff helps needy older adults with home repairs and provides fans through the Project Heat Relief Program each summer.

The Nutrition Program allows more than 500 older adults to gather weekdays at Lunch Club sites to share a balanced lunch and benefit from educational programs, including nutrition education, health screenings and social interaction.

Staff members work with a food service/catering company to provide meals based on the nutritional needs of older persons. Sites are at area churches and community centers around the county. “Shelf meals,” funded through United Way, are given to clients for use during days of inclement weather when sites have to close. Vouchers for use at local farmer’s markets go out during summer months to help clients get fresh fruits and vegetables.

Rufty-Holmes has been a Rowan County United Way Agency since 1990. It was recognized by the NC Division of Aging & Adult Services as the state’s first “Senior Center of Excellence” in 1999, and has been nationally accredited by the National Institute of Senior Centers since 2001.

For more information, check out the center’s website at www.ruftyholmes.org or call 704-216-7714.

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