A look into this week’s edition of the special summer Senior Center series proves a few things. Firstly, while a grandma sitting and knitting is a pretty stereotypical image, it holds a lot of power. Secondly, the seniors that show up to 450 East A Street in Oakdale on Wednesday mornings probably get more exercise than you do. And finally, while a busy day holds lots of excitement, there’s still much to do on the more peaceful days.
Though Tuesdays prove to be more slow – a quiet little lull in the usual activity of the Senior Center – Wednesdays come around, full of seniors exercising, creating, crafting, playing, and gaming.
Tuesdays hold more classes than most days: watercolor painting, Zumba, bridge, chess, knitting, band practice, and a Widow/Widower Support Group. However, members take this day to sit back and enjoy the company of others.
“I usually am with the knitting group but mostly I just volunteer at the desk,” Billie Benedix shared.
Along with the plethora of experience she’s had, being an avid attendee of the Center for 19 years, she’s also left a lasting impact.
While the craft group members usually are the ones that sell their works on the shelves across from the front desk, Benedix helped lead the way in a knitting craze to help spruce up the Center.
“A few years ago, there were some scarves and I was knitting one and someone came up to the desk and said, ‘Ooh I’d like to have one of those.’ And I said, ‘Well just tell me what color and I’ll knit one for you,’” Benedix relayed.
Soon, she got another scarf order and then another and another. And then a brilliant entrepreneur thought occurred: this could be a project for the Senior Center. A way to make a little bit of money.
“Well, we knitted probably close to 300 scarves,” she shared. “And all the yarns were donated so the Senior Center didn’t have to pay for the material.”
She reported about $3,000 in profit for the community. The center put the money to good use so that everyone who came would benefit. Their scarf money went straight into funding new counters for the restrooms and kitchens, a long project, but worth the payoff.
“I said ‘I’ll never knit another scarf!’” Benedix reminisced after the project was finished. However, she said this with a smile and yet another scarf in her lap, having already finished four more before.
Not only does the knitting club work on scarves, but they also work on slippers, aprons, and other clothing.
Also on Tuesdays is bridge, which runs for about four hours. The card players have been gaming for a while: some have just started and others have been attending for over a decade.
Helping keep seniors in shape and flexible is the Young at Heart program, which is on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon. There are also exercise opportunities on Mondays and Fridays.
“It’s mostly for flexibility and to help with balance,” one of the knitters reported, also noting that it was one of her favorite classes that the Center offers.
The hour-long class on Wednesday is taught by Peggy Welch, a regular at the center, who serves as the lead teacher for the group. She was flanked by two other ladies, who all demonstrated the exercises for the entire class, whether they class attendees were standing up or sitting in their chairs.
Welch also leads a hula and tap-dancing class, while her husband is a kitchen manager. Jane Finkenbine, the city’s recreation coordinator, dubbed them as “wonderful” without a moment’s hesitation.
Wednesday also holds a cell phone/computer/tablet class for seniors to maximize their use out of their devices. Hand & Foot, along with other card games, are featured in the afternoon and then the Center closes their day with some Bingo from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with members from the whole community participating.
Among all of this activity, one fact comes through: the seniors truly love and value their time spent in the Center. Whether they come just to have a chance to socialize with others or they come to stay in shape, they all have their place and something fun to do.Next week, a look at Thursday and Friday programs at the Center, including the seniors’ love of dance