Shortly after arriving in Clayton County in 2011, retired federal government accountant Lenell Lucas looked for ways to “make friends and network.”
He joined the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale and the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro which have become a significant source of fun and activity for Lucas. He regularly plays cards, attends dances and has even taken in a Hawks game as part of the centers’ outings.
In May, he attended the Clayton County Senior Services Department’s annual Mayfest which drew some 1,500 people to the South Clayton Recreation Center in Hampton.
Clayton Seniors Stay Active and Make Friends
“It keeps you from being isolated at home because you get out and meet people,” Lucas, 64, said. Lucas is part of a tremendously active senior citizen population in Clayton County, where two of the county’s senior centers have a combined membership of 3,000.
“Our membership is not lacking,” says Tori StrawterTanks, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department. “We’re bursting out of the seams. Our parking lots are full. Our classes are full.”
StrawterTanks attributes the strong activity to “our Baby Boomers,” the uberactive generation born between 1946 and 1964 who in their youth ushered in the Civil Rights era, the Women’s Movement and other major social changes in America.
Now that they’re older, they want to remain active, and they’re vocal about doing so. StrawterTanks says they’re very involved in helping her department plan programs and activities.
“We ask our seniors what they want to do,” she said. “Our program is driven by what seniors want to do. They’re smart and active. We don’t treat them like babies.”
As a result, Clayton’s seniors have a plethora of activities and programs to choose from:
- Fitness classes which include Zoomba, aqua Zoomba, Tai Chi, and Step;
- Field trips to the Hawks, Braves, Falcons games as well as Fox Theater, museums, concerts;
- Out of town trips to places like The Biltmore House in North Carolina and Las Vegas;
- Dances; and
- Festivals such as the annual Mayfest which draws thousands each year.
Senior Population in Clayton
About 9 percent of Clayton’s nearly 290,000 residents are over the age of 65, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. County leaders don’t take those numbers lightly.
“They are my sounding board. They keep me rooted and grounded,” said Felecia Franklin Warner, vice chair of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. She represents District 3. “They’re a true reflection of who we are in Clayton and who we can become. They’re still involved and still engaged and have a vast amount of experience professionally. They’re open to sharing their experience with the community. They’re brutally honest. They tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. To be honest, they have the best time ever. It gives me life to be around them.”
At the core of that activism, Franklin Warner says, is the county’s senior services department.
In addition to providing fun activities, the department is responsible for the three senior centers and the Aging program.
Programs and Services Designed for Seniors
The Aging program includes Meals on Wheels, in-home care services that help homebound people over the age of 60 with various tasks such as bathing and grocery shopping. (People must have case managers before taking part in any of these services.) There’s also an information and referral service that links eligible residents with legal, dental and other services they may need, StrawterTanks said.
“We provide a continuum of services,” she added. “We try to use our senior centers (first) to keep from having our seniors have to venture into our aging program.”
There’s also a senior center facility called Kinship Care “lovingly known as our grandparents raising grandchildren” StrawterTanks said. It provides family support regardless of age to caregivers.
The wealth of senior related programs is one reason Lucas remains a loyal Clayton resident.
“Clayton County is a great county to live in,” said Lucas who moved here from Washington, D.C. “It has a lot of recreational services and good public services like police and fire, and you have good public transportation such as bus service and a relatively low cost of living. It’s a great place to retire.”
A Glimpse at Clayton County Senior Services Facilities
- J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, 2300 Hwy 138, Jonesboro, 30236, located in the Clayton County International Park.
- Frank Bailey Senior Center, 6213 Riverdale Rd., Riverdale, 30274
- Kinship Care Resource Center, 849 Battlecreek Rd. Jonesboro, 30236
- Aging Program, 877 Battlecreek Rd., Jonesboro, 30236
Did you know?
The groundbreaking for the long anticipated Intergenerational Center on Flint River Road will be July 20, 2019. The 21-acre complex is a collaborative project between the Clayton County Senior Services Department and Parks and Recreation. The facility will provide recreation and other activities for multiple generations of families. It will include a “Black Box Theater” designed for live performances that will have flexible stage and seating, game rooms, exercise rooms, a multi-purpose gym, and outdoor splash pod.
Pictured above: Lenny Lucas (middle) with friends