Staying young at heart

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – If there were a hub for senior citizen activity in St. John Parish, the area of Reserve would certainly win that designation.

Situated just behind the extravagant Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home and the newly opened Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic is the Frank G. Lapeyrolerie/Leola Montz Council on Aging Activity Center, a facility that is close to reaching its two-year anniversary.

“So many seniors in this area spend their time alone at home,” said the center Director Cheryl Parquet. “We just want to make people aware that we are here, and that we have so much to offer.”

Parquet, who has worked with the Council on Aging for about 25 years, said the activity center’s employees are committed to giving the older members of the St. John community a better quality of life.

“I think they have paved the way for us, and they deserve this respect,” said Parquet. “It’s all about giving back to them.”

Parquet said visitors can get daily exercise and weekly dialysis and blood pressure screenings. Regular visitors also get treated to birthday parties monthly as a way to celebrate anyone born in that month, which is one of the things that helps pull people in.  

“They appreciate the health screenings and the exercise,” said Parquet, “But they love to eat and they love to dance.”

Parquet said of the more recent activities the center has sponsored, the computer class ranked as one of the most popular among the visitors.

“A class just wrapped up, and it really brought in a lot of people,” said Parquet. “People from all walks of life come to learn how to use computers, and send and receive e mail. One lady in the class was 90 years old, and we showed her how to use e mail, it was really great.”

Because of the popularity, Parquet said the center would be running another class sometime in June.

Another popular event the center offers is the twice-weekly bingo games. Parquet explained that on a normal day, the center usually averages about 40 to 45 people, but on the Wednesday and Friday bingo day, the center gets almost 70 visitors.

In addition to the in house activities, Parquet explained that every other month, the center takes visitors out on “field trips” outside the parish.

“Our most recent event was a steam boat ride,” said Parquet. “We had about 55 in attendance. This past February, we took visitors to the state capital. Some of them had never even been to Baton Rouge, so they were just elated.”

In order to take advantage of the services the activity center offers, visitors must be 60 years of age or older, and must be independent and able to take care of themselves. The center offers transportation for folks without vehicles, and also offers homebound vehicles that deliver lunches out to seniors in the area.

Parquet said the center is funded by grants from the federal government, and also gets money from state and local entities. She said they do ask for donations for the transportation vans and for the lunches, but if visitors don’t have anything, they won’t get stopped.

The activity center opens every weekday at 9 a.m. Parquet said most of the visitors stay until about 1 or 2 p.m., but it doesn’t shut down until almost 3 p.m. The Reserve facility is located just off Airline Highway, directly behind the VA Outpatient Clinic. There is also a satellite center in Edgard, behind the courthouse.

For more information on the activity center, call 985-479-0272.