More and more active seniors are settling in the Lake Norman area.
While this generally bodes well economically for our region, it also places a greater stress on the services used by seniors, especially as improved health care extends life expectancies.
The South Iredell Senior Center offers wellness, exercise and other programs to the roughly 750 women and men it now serves.
In the 1990s, the Iredell Council on Aging, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of life for seniors, recognized that need, forming a network of services designed specifically for those over 60.
Today, they oversee two senior centers as well as several food and transportation programs.
One of the activity centers, the South Iredell Senior Center, is located in the lower level of the Charles Mack Citizen Center at 202 N. Church St. in downtown Mooresville.
The South Iredell Center provides an impressive array of programs and services for seniors, with more than 30 activities including water exercise, mah-jongg, yoga, legal services, table tennis, line dancing and embroidery/needlework.
Center Manager Tina Czarnecki is entering her sixth year at Mooresville and really admires the senior participants.
"On a scale of one to 10, their enthusiasm is right up there near a 10," said Czarnecki, a Watagua County native and Appalachian State graduate. "They view the senior center as a mecca of social health and well being."
Agnes Richardson, 75, one of the center volunteers is a prime example of the seniors who frequent the center. She moved to Maiden in 2007 after living in Rockville. Md., for 34 years while she worked for the National Institute of Health.
"My daughter, who lives in Sherrills Ford, told me this was the best senior center around, and she was right. That's why I come all the way from Maiden, a 25-mile trip, every day. I just love it here."
In addition to the interaction provided to seniors, the center is a good bargain. Iredell County residents pay no annual membership fee, while out of county residents pay an annual fee of $10, which is used to support a scholarship fund. This draws many seniors to the center from surrounding communities where fees are higher.
Many of the specific center activities and programs are free. Some programs have a cost for supplies or certified instructors, and classes sponsored by Mitchell Community College have a fee for participants under the age of 65.
Czarnecki credits the arrangement with the town as a major factor in their ability to keep fees low.
"The Town of Mooresville provides us with a modern building where we don't have to pay rent or utility costs. That's an awesome demonstration of support on their part," said Czarnecki. "As a result we don't face many of the expenses other senior centers have to deal with."
That's not to say they don't feel some economic pressure.
"We're all suffering due to the economy, what with the higher costs for fuel and food. But we're doing our best to keep our services going," said Czarnecki.
She names yoga, tai chi and water exercise as among the center's most popular activities. With an indoor pool at their disposal part of each day, the center's water fitness programs are frequently recommended by area physicians for senior citizens.
Looking ahead, Czarnecki and her staff of just one part-timer plus many volunteers are already busy planning their schedule for May's Older Americans Month when a number of special events will be held.
"People often lose sight of the value of senior centers like ours, but I've had participants come up to me and say that the services we offer and interaction with others literally saved their life, usually after the loss of a spouse or loved one," said Czarnecki.
"Comments like those make it all worthwhile."