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Civic involvement keeps seniors active, healthy

MSU Extension Service

May is Older Americans Month…

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Many people view senior adulthood as a time to slow down and relax, but too much free time can lead to unhappiness.

David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said volunteer work and community involvement are good ways for seniors to enjoy retirement.

“Civic involvement is one direction older adults may take during the postretirement season of life,” Buys said. “There’s an old saying, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any old road will take you there.’ People who retire without a plan for how to use their time may find themselves feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.”

Community involvement helps people remain mentally, physically and socially engaged. Buys recommends Mississippians look for opportunities to serve their communities through activities they enjoy.

“Many communities have garden clubs, sewing clubs and other special interest groups,” Buys said. “The Extension Service offers wonderful volunteer programs that appeal to different interests, including Master Gardeners, Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers and Master Naturalists, all of which feature great opportunities to give back to the community.”

 The MSU Extension Service trains members of the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs in exchange for their volunteer service. More than 100 Mississippi Homemaker Volunteer groups operate in Mississippi with activities that vary from county to county. Some clubs do several sewing projects and donate their creations to hospitals, senior centers and veterans groups. Others rally behind one major cause each year, such as breast cancer awareness, or spearhead county fairs and other community events.

Romona Edge, Itawamba County Extension agent, said the senior population in her county is very active and does a lot of volunteer work to better the community.

“Our senior adults are very active,” Edge said. “They participate in a wide variety of activities -- from making quilts to donate for fundraisers and participating in countywide beautification projects to building a walking track and assisting with the construction of a community center. We also have a group of seniors who get together to exercise Monday through Friday. They have also learned to line dance and perform at local senior care facilities and community events throughout the year.”

Faith-based and family activities also are options for enrichment.

“Many churches offer monthly programs that provide an educational and social component,” Edge said. “Our county Extension volunteers have provided a Tai Chi exercise class and helped with a church-sponsored health fair for more than 20 years. We have a very active Extension Master Health Volunteer Club in Itawamba County that helps do these types of events.”

Both Buys and Edge said the MSU Extension Service is a good place to start when looking for ways to give back. The educational organization offers programs that allow people to serve their communities by using skills gained through work and hobbies.

“Older adults have a lot to offer in terms of wisdom and in practical ways and should be proud to share their life experience and skills to improve their communities,” Buys said. “It is also important for younger people to invite older adults to participate in leadership roles, either in local governments, communities, churches or families. Grandparents are a rich resource for their grandchildren.”

Local Area Agencies on Aging also offer community-based services and activities for seniors, Buys said. For more information, visit the Mississippi Department of Human Services website at http://bit.ly/1X6VJIT.

For more information about local Extension programs, contact the county Extension office, or go to http://www.extension.msstate.edu.

Released: May 16, 2016
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Asst Extension/Research Prof
State Health Specialist
Extension Agent III*
County Director Focus: Health

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