Many people have felt disconnected and lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But when seniors are socially isolated, they’re at higher risk for developing health problems. In fact, studies have shown that seniors who maintain robust social connections have better memories and slower cognitive declines than those who don’t.
That’s what makes the Lowcountry and Waring senior centers such great resources for senior adults. With fitness gyms and hundreds of classes each month, the centers offer plenty of ways to interact with others.
Elizabeth Bernat, Roper St. Francis Healthcare director of senior services and executive director of the Lowcountry and Waring senior centers, says there are intangible benefits in coming to the facility.
During the early days of the pandemic, the centers offered online (rather than in-person) classes. “Since we’ve reopened, so many people have come back and said they didn’t realize how important socializing at the senior center was in their lives until they had to stay home,” Bernat says.
Bernat says about 75% of visits to the senior centers are related to exercise, but 100% of the visits are related to socializing.
“Even our exercise classes are very social. They’re a great way to get out, be around people and have some interaction. That’s really the magic of the senior center,” she says.
After months of staying socially isolated, Bernat says many people may be a little wary to venture into public. But the senior centers take precautions to keep members safe. Masks are required, except when eating or exercising, and strict cleaning protocols are followed.
Classes run the gamut from fitness to the creative arts to dancing to caregiver support groups. Many are in person, but many virtual classes are still offered. Examples of classes include:
- ● Calligraphy
- ● Chair yoga
- ● Flower arranging
- ● Photography
- ● Tai Chi
- ● Zumba Gold
There’s also a quilting group, acoustic jam sessions on the screened-in porch, a coffee club for intermediate French speakers and support groups for people with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes as well as for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Bernat says member feedback and surveys are used to determine which classes will be offered.
Membership is open to anyone over the age of 50. The centers offer two membership levels:
- ● A Basic Membership does not include access to the fitness center. It’s $70 per year for Charleston County residents; $80 for out-of-county residents.
- ● A Gold Membership includes access to the fitness center. At the Lowcountry Senior Center, it’s $105 a year for Charleston County residents; $115 for out-of-county residents. At the Waring Senior Center, it’s $125 in for in-county residents; $135 out of county.
Short-term memberships and scholarships are also available. Some classes also have nominal fees.
Bernat recommends visiting the senior center of your choice to take a tour before filling out a membership application.
The Lowcountry Senior Center is located on James Island at 865 Riverland Drive
Charleston, SC 29412. Waring Senior Center is located on the campus of Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital at 2001 Henry Tecklenburg Drive, Charleston, SC 29414.