With the heat creeping into town for the summer, the Senior Center, despite being well air-conditioned, has seen less of its seniors. Nevertheless, there were still a few rooms to peek into on Thursday and Friday.
While some classes and clubs meet only one or two times a week, there are activities that are available at all times in the Senior Center. One of these is the billiards room, where a lot of the senior citizens, especially men, come in and play pool.
On Thursday, Andy Anderson and Jim Coleman were the first ones in, and started off the day with a nice game of pool.
“You meet a lot of people here,” Coleman said after taking a shot at the table.
“We just come in here, eat lunch and shoot pool,” Anderson confirmed.
Both of them seemed happy and content in this simplicity and routine. Anderson even had built some of the shelves that were in the billiard room, as he’s been playing pool at the center almost 20 years.
More players joined later on, but Thursday afternoons also host the Singing Seniors.
The group had a dozen members last week, with nine women and three men raising their voices in song. Before they started practicing for the day, teacher Ron Quintanal sat down for an interview while Barbara Vucich manned the piano.
Before helping out at the Senior Center, Quintanal had been a teacher at Oakdale High School for 25 years. When asked what inspired him to come teach at the Senior Center after, he joked that Linda Royalty – the past Recreation Coordinator – was to blame.
“(She) twisted my arm,” he accused with a laugh. “I retired in ‘08 and she had been a band parent. She said ‘Well why don’t you come?’ and I said ‘Well I have nothing else to do.’”
And so he joined and started helping out with songs. The Singing Seniors have concerts every six weeks or so and try to shake things up and bring some new songs in each time. In fact, they only repeat songs around this time of year when they’re singing patriotic tunes.
“I love the old standards from the 30s, 40s, and 50s – which is our era – but we’ve done rock and roll,” he reported. “And they like that and the audience likes it. We just do as much variety as we can.”
The seniors usually sing as a group and rarely do solos, but it works out because together they sound beautiful. The group consists of mainly women, and Quintanal said they are always looking for more men, and more singers in general.
“We could always use more singers,” he said. “There’s a ton of people around town that used to sing in church choirs and they should be coming here if they still love to sing.”
He reported that there weren’t auditions, it was just sitting down and joining in with the rest of the group. So if you or someone you know is a senior who loves to sing, Quintanal and the rest of the class would love more company.
Not only does Quintanal teach the Singing Seniors, but he also leads the Community Band. As a trumpet player and former music teacher, he’s had more than enough experience to help seniors keep doing what they’re passionate about. They normally do concerts in the park, play at National Night Out, and perform every year at Casa de Modesto for the Fourth of July Festival.
But the Senior Center doesn’t just host musically-inclined seniors, it also hosts dancing seniors. They offer a wide range of classes, like tap-dancing, hula, and beginner line dance. Tap-dancing, previously a Friday offering, was recently moved to Tuesdays.
Friday mornings usually hold the two ukulele groups and a Hula class – the Silver Strummers and Silver Wahines, respectively. The players and dancers usually perform together.
“Next week there’s the barbecue and the Strummers are going to be there,” Joel Steinberg, who was sitting in, explained.
“For the ukulele next week they’re going to Astoria (Senior Living Center) to perform,” Joan Taylor added in.
While the morning is coated in a glimpse of Hawaiian culture, in the afternoon, they finish off the week with a Friday movie matinee.
“We have all different kinds. Chick-flicks, comedy ... we try to stay PG-13,” Jeanie Cavanaugh, one of the ladies that mans the front desk, reported. Steinberg noted that they lean more toward light-hearted films and Cavanaugh affirmed this: “Some people get sad if we play too many movies that make them cry.”
The group marveled at all of the things that the Senior Center offers its members and Cavanaugh joked “Can’t wait to get old, right?”
While the group laughed after this comment, it still holds some weight. The town of Oakdale doesn’t just let its seniors sit at home alone – it encourages them and provides opportunities for them to keep pursuing their passions, to keep active through exercise classes, and to still gain a community.
“A lot of people think you're not going to make very many friends when you get old, but you do,” Billie Benedix said earlier this month.
The camaraderie evident among local seniors at the various classes and programs is proof. It is, as Taylor described, a gathering place.
This week, the agenda holds a BBQ Dinner on June 21 at the Senior Center for $12 at 5 p.m. and Fun Sunday Line Dancing on June 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for $7.
Next week will be the concluding fourth part to our Senior Center Series focusing on trips and what else to watch out for this year.