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MADISONVILLE (1/1/13) — Tai chi, computer classes, dancing and sticking your tongue out may not sound like typical senior citizen behavior. Yet, the seniors at the Hopkins County Senior Citizens Center in Madisonville not only take part in self defense and improvement classes but also in the silly side of life.

“It's really about engaging the mind,” said director Christen Barker, “even if it's 'National Dance Like a Chicken Day.'”

Barker is no stranger to the world of senior interaction. Her mother was a center director in North Carolina, and Barker grew up visiting the center. Now, the Hopkins County Seniors Center is her new home away from home.

“This is like a second home,” she said. “My grandmother is 98 years old. She is part of the reason I do all this. About 10 years ago, she taught my nephew how to stand on his head. She did that at 88 years old. Having fun — spirit, mind and body — we can do things to keep us healthy. If our minds are happy, you're going to live longer and you're going to have more productive lives.”

Barker said Pennyrile Allied Community Service drivers become like family to many seniors. Drivers deliver lunches to people that are unable to visit the center for lunch in the cafeteria.

“Sometimes, the driver is the only person some people see in a single day,” said Barker. “Drivers become friends. They might take in the mail. They make presents and cards for people. They do a lot of things they're not paid to do. They go beyond.”

Barker shared the story of a driver, who discovered a woman in congestive heart failure.

“If she had not been there, who knows what would have happened,” she said. “That driver still goes every day and checks on her. What they do is about more than just a meal.”

Getting to know and provide a helping hand to a senior is a “contagious” feeling, said Barker.

“It's not only about making friends but also helping yourself by helping someone,” she said. “It does your heart good.”

The Hopkins County Senior Citizens Center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and the noon meal is $5 for those, who can afford to pay. Donations to help support programs are welcomed.

Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News Director
Photos by Rita Dukes Smith

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