Local senior finds old-school social network
But that was the role she found herself in nearly 5 years ago when, after the deaths of her husband and two sons, she decided to move to Williamson County to be closer to her daughter.
When her daughter encouraged her to visit a nearby senior activity center – FiftyForward-College Grove, a United Way of Williamson County partner program – as a way to get out of the house and meet people, Dorothy was reluctant at first.
“I thought, ‘Ah, that’s old people,’” says the 83-year-old, laughing.
Gradually, though, she began meeting people around town who convinced her to give it a try.
“I was a little shy and backward, but some time passed,” she says. “Now, I’ve made lots of friends – more than I ever had before – and they’re genuinely glad to see me, and I’m glad to see them.”
Beyond what it’s done for her social network, it has made a world of difference for her physical activity level.
Physical activity is proven to have a host of benefits from boosting your mood and staving off depression to protecting against chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Despite this, just 7 percent of Tennessee adults age 65 or over meet the recommended amount of physical activity each week, according to 2013 data from the CDC.
Thanks to her visits to the senior activity center, Dorothy is now one of that 7 percent.
She says that on a scale of 0-10, her activity level on days she doesn’t go to the center is about 1; on days she goes to the center, however, her activity level ranges from 8-10.
“At home, really, I’m just sitting in my recliner for hours,” she says. “There’s not much housework to do, and I’m not supposed to be outside in the pollen [because of a medical condition].”
On days she goes to the senior activity center, though, she walks in the gym and performs stretching exercises, in addition to any group activities she participates in.
Dorothy says that for the first time in her life, she spends her weekends looking forward to Mondays.
“This place is just about like the difference between living and dying,” says Dorothy. “It gives me something to look forward to, something to enjoy; it keeps me active and gets me out of bed and dressed, and not in the dreaded recliner.”
Mounting scientific research shows that seniors who are socially, mentally and physically engaged live longer, healthier lives. That’s why United Way of Williamson County works to provide safe, healthy outlets for our community’s senior population.
And Dorothy has found that outlet with this program.
“It gives a meaning to your life; you’re not just waiting for the Grim Reaper to come on down,” she says. “It keeps your mind busy and your body busy, and that’s a good thing.”