Dressed in their finest Derby hats and attire, members of the Young At Heart 50+ Club celebrated the club's one year anniversary during a luncheon Friday at the Oak Grove Community Center.

The 50+ club is a group of neighbors and community members who meet once a month at the community center to break bread together, fellowship, play games and share stories.

For the one year anniversary, guests enjoyed a homecooked meal prepared by Jackie Oliver, club member and city councilwoman. Games such as a Derby hat decorating contest and a mini-Derby race using horse figurines also were played.

"I'm very excited this program has lasted a year," said Melissa Lynch, center director. "It is a program that is well-deserved and we love doing it for them. It's a chance for them to visit and mingle with people in their age group. "

Each meeting has been a different theme with free unique meals and activities. Club members play a trivia game about current events and history during most meetings, Lynch said.

"In the coming year we plan to do things bigger and better with more games and we plan to host more people. We want this to be as great as it possibly can be," she said.

The club was founded a year ago because it was something many community members had asked the center to provide, Lynch said.

Cheryl McDonald, who has attended every 50+ Club meeting said this club was something the community needed to provide to serve the senior population who live here.

"We needed to get a lot of the elderly folks who stay in ... the shut ins and stuff like that ... to get them out of the house to do something positive at least once a month," McDonald said. "A lot of people due to illness or life circumstances just stay shut in and they feel helpless sometimes."

The lunch club and social hour also is a chance for seniors to see how they can be useful in the community, she said.

"This is a chance to get the elderly adults out into the community and to give them an opportunity to spend time with people their own age," she said. "As people age they tend to lose a lot of friends who are in their age group."

McDonald and her family have lived in the Oak Grove community for about 23 years. Through this club she has forged bonds with new neighbors, she said.

Developing those connections and relationships helps strengthen the community as a whole, Lynch said.

"Even if it's just getting together like this ... getting to know our neighbors ... we get to know their families and develop bonds," McDonald said. "When you are bonded with other people you tend to be more helpful, grateful and feel more appreciated."

At the club's first meeting, about five people attended. Now, upward of 40 seniors will show up for the afternoon of activities. McDonald plans to continue attending meetings and looks forward to seeing how the program grows in the coming months.

"A lot of times, life can get you down. It's easy to get depressed. If we can get people to come out here just once a month though, we can make a difference," she said.

During the meeting, De'Shaundra Larry volunteered to keep the seniors from cheating at the games. She especially kept a close eye on her father, Charles Tumblin, who also attended.

Larry, who began volunteering with the 50+ club about a month ago, said she wanted to work with the club because she saw the impact it had on her father's life.

"He started attending meetings a while back and I thought it was a great way to serve people who are serving their children and also are raising grandchildren," Larry said. "I just thought it was a great way to take care of them and to show we appreciate them."

During the trivia game, Larry scolded a club member who was discreetly researching the answers on his phone.

"It's a party every month. It's always a great time," she said, laughing.

Larry said it is important for the community to remember and understand seniors have needs and deserve attention.

"Sometimes this is a generation we forget to cater to. They still want to have a great, fun time," she said. "These seniors are full of energy and wisdom. We need to be able provide ways for them to be able to just relax and have a good time. This is an opportunity to give them a place to come, relax and spend some time with their friends."

The 50+ Club will meet at noon June 21, July 19, Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Oct. 18, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13 at the Oak Grove Community Center, 1705 Thompsonville Lane. For more information, call 270-640-7575.

"This is a place where there is a great group of volunteers and employees who are ready to support you, love on you and make this a great time," Larry said. "There are great, funny (seniors) here who have outstanding stories. I would just encourage people to give the club a try."

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