With hundreds of opportunities available to help them enjoy their lives, many seniors in the area are not sitting around with nothing to do.
They are finding programs specifically for them in city and county recreation centers, Horry County Council on Aging Senior Centers and other places, including hundreds of churches and temples.
For many leaders of church senior groups, their work is their mission in life.
“I get some excited when I do senior adult things. I feel like this is a big, big mission that I have,” said Johanna Floyd, director of senior adults at North Conway Baptist Church in Conway.
For years, Floyd has been planning events at the church and taking groups many places. They go to local restaurants and attractions, have picnics, fish fries and other activities. They take one-day trips to attractions across South Carolina, longer trips to interesting places in other states and to conferences and retreats.
“We’ve been just about everywhere there is to go in South Carolina because they like to do road trips,” she said, adding that many of the seniors, including at least two in their 90s, no longer drive and would “slap-dab dry up” without something to do.
Every year, the group goes to McBee to get peaches. Their numerous trips have included all of the famous Charleston gardens and Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Gardens in Bishopville, a trip that also led them to a button factory and a cotton museum. Floyd often opens the trips up to other seniors, as she recently did with a trip to the Holy Land Experience and other attractions in Florida.
There is almost always something for seniors to do at the Grand Strand Senior Center at 1268 21st Ave. N. in Myrtle Beach and nine other centers across Horry County.
“We have a little bit of everything. It keeps us young and that’s the point,” said Jeanie Rhodes, manager of the Grand Strand Center.
Whether they are having lunch on Tuesdays or Thursdays, playing games, dancing, exercising, or doing many other activities, the seniors are making new friends and enjoying life. Rhodes also plans day trips and some seniors will soon be going to Charleston and Wilmington. She has also scheduled trips to Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Orlando, and other longer trips.
Kathy Bazzarre, parish nurse at Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church, leads the Prime Time group for members and guests 55 and over. That group started in May 2012 and will be having its first birthday party this May.
They have been learning about many vital or interesting subjects through speakers at the meetings. Health and medical information have been provided by speakers that include a pharmacy manager. They learned about sea turtles from Linda Mataya of the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol, and about shelter dogs trained to be service dogs for disabled veterans from Rick Kaplan of Canine Angels, who also introduced them to several dogs.
“They were very impressed with Rick Kaplan and the time he tales with the veterans and how he matches the dog to the veteran,” Bazzarre said.
The Prime Time group is planning to begin taking trips soon, including a boat trip on the Intracoastal Waterway or the Waccamaw River.
Bazzarre also leads an Alzheimer’s Support Group at Summitt Place.
Mark Fanus leads the Friendly Seniors Young at Heart group at Surfside Beach United Methodist Church.
“If they’re 50 or older, that’s good. It doesn’t matter if they go to our church or don’t go there,” he said. “Through friendships with all these people, they’ll get there.”
That group is growing, he said, increasing from 62 in January to about 80 in February. They meet monthly, with the exception of June, July and August, and will have a Welcome Back Picnic at Huntington Beach State Park in September. They have luncheons at the church with entertainment or speakers, go to local restaurants, play bingo and do other activities. Fanus said they have tentative plans to visit Mepkin Abbey, a monastery and favored tourist attraction on the banks of the Cooper River near Moncks Corner, in October.
Bill Bowman is senior director at Ocean View Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, and in addition to meetings and local activities, has taken the group on numerous trips. One of their favorite trips was to Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Gardens, a place where a man named Pearl has created, and continues to create amazing works-of-art with plants after being continually told those things could not be done.
“Everybody was not awed; they were over-awed,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s group trips in South Carolina have included the Birds of Prey Center in Awendaw and other interesting and educational sites. They have also been to several other states, including Massachusetts.
“We went on a whale watch and about half of the people got seasick,” he said.
But most of the seasickness subsided and that trip, also, turned out to be a success.
Churches and other organizations along the beaches always have an increase in senior activities when the snowbirds are here, and snowbirds are always welcome.