Selma makes room for seniors

pseligson@newsobserver.comJune 9, 2014 

Selma’s seniors have a new place to spend time with friends, learn computer skills, exercise and eat lunch.

Earlier this month, Johnston County Community & Senior Services opened the new Harrison Center for Active Aging. The building, once part of Harrison School, has rooms for dining, exercise, arts and crafts and computers.

“We’ve never had that type of space in this county anywhere that would allow us to have multiple programs going on at the same time,” said Neal Davis, executive director of Community & Senior Services. “We’re coming from a place where 15 people was a crowd. Now 15 people can be lost in one room.”

The senior center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 611 W. Noble St., Selma.

The Town of Selma donated the building, which sits between buildings used by the Harrison Alumni Association and a Head Start program.

The renovated building’s large inner hallway provides access to six rooms. One is a reading room with adjoining computer lab that has nine computers for students and one computer with a TV screen for an instructor. Davis plans to run computer-skills classes.

Another room is dedicated to arts and crafts. Last Tuesday, the beginnings of a quilt were spread over a table, layers waiting to be sewn together. At other senior centers, rooms wear many hats, meaning seniors can’t leave an art project out to work on the next day, Davis said.

The new space has two exercise rooms. One is filled with weight machines for seniors who want to build strength, mobility and balance. The other is a group exercise room for classes such as Zumba. That room has a sound system, small free weights and a low-impact floor donated by the next door Harrison Alumni Association.

The last two rooms are a kitchen-dining room combo and a multipurpose room with piano that can be used as a second dining room.

At lunchtime on a recent Tuesday, friends Oscar Dickson, 78, of Selma and James Stephens, 83, of Kenly laughed their way through a meal in the dining room. “I’m a senior, watch out,” Stephens said. “I don’t want these old people to rub off on me,” he later joked with Dickson.

The two said they appreciated the fellowship and the services at the new center. “It’s nice we’ve got good food and all of that,” Dickson said.

From the new location, Senior Services delivers about 50 meals daily to home-bound seniors. The building has a driveway in the back for volunteers to drop off and pick up the meals.

On that recent Tuesday, Doris Dickson, 76, of Selma sat next to Ida Morgan, 82, also of Selma. Dickson said the new center is a blessing, especially when she doesn’t feel like cooking. Morgan said she likes the fellowship. “The exercising and the building is nice,” she said.

Rowena Sykes, 63, of Selma likes the exercise too. Usually she might walk at the Medical Mall in Smithfield, but now, “I’m going to try to come and really exercise more often,” she said.

“The potential here is to serve just hundreds and hundreds of people,” Davis said.

Renovations started last fall and cost about $700,000. A Community Development Block Grant paid $500,000 of that. The rest came from a number of smaller grants and donations in the community.

Senior Services used to serve meals out of a building on Sharp Street owned by the Selma Housing Authority.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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