What goes on at the Columbia Senior Activity Center? A lot more than what most people think. Tai chi, billiards, card games, line dancing, woodcarving, Wii bowling, Friday seminars and more put the “activity” in the center’s name.
“Most senior centers serve lunch, and they may have dominoes and a couple of card games,” says Jan Palmer, the center’s president. “We have all kinds of activities, plus a craft room, plus a library, plus a game room, plus dances, plus a meal program. … You will not find a senior center like ours anywhere.”
A Place For Camaraderie
The mission of the center is to provide activities “to promote senior citizens in maintaining a lifestyle of independence and personal growth.” The center defines “senior” as anyone 50 and older, but there are no minimum age requirements on participation — with the one exception that people must be at least 50 to play pool. Most activities at the center have suggested donations of $1 or $2 for the day.
Once people arrive, it’s easy to show them a good time, Palmer says. The hard part is getting them there to check it out.
“I’m 66,” Palmer says, “but a lot of my friends say, ‘I’m not old enough to be a senior.’ You’d be surprised at how many people in their 60s and 70s don’t feel like they’re a senior or feel it’s a stigma of an old folks’ place. But we have lots of fun. I really enjoy the companionship and the camaraderie and the community we have here.”
New people are welcomed at the front desk with a greeting from a trained receptionist, and volunteers give them a tour of the center, describing the various activities and explaining how they can take part.
“It’s a very open atmosphere, very friendly,” Palmer says. “It’s easy for new people to get connected.”
Her own story shows just how easy. Her first visit to the center was for a Bible study three and a half years ago.
“I met a couple of people in that Bible study, and pretty soon I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just eat lunch here,’” she says. “Then one of my dad’s friends saw me, and I said, ‘This is pretty nice!’ and he said, ‘Well, how about volunteering here?’ And next thing I knew, I was running for the board and I became president!
“There are really a lot of benefits to coming here,” Palmer adds. “When people stay active, they live longer, they can stay in their home longer, they have better health — when they stay connected.”
All This Food … For $6?
No senior center would be complete without a meal program, and the Columbia Senior Activity Center goes full out with its lunches. Entrees include such dishes as fried chicken, baked ham, barbecued pulled pork, breaded catfish and beef pot roast — and diners always have two options. Then with their chosen entrée, diners receive a potato, two vegetables, salad, soup, a drink and dessert — all for $6, or $7 on Sundays. People of all ages are welcome.
“We have businesspeople who come here for lunch because they love our meals and you can’t find a meal anywhere like ours for $6,” Palmer says.
The center’s website advertises each month’s menu.
The Columbia Senior Activity Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Lunch is served from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Sunday through Friday. It is located at 1121 Business Loop 70 East. For more information, call 573-874-2050 or visit www.columbiaseniorcenter.com.