Friday, November 17, 2017
Health

Life Enrichment Center helps adults keep playing

RECOMMENDED READING


NORTH TAMPA

Gaby Ashy spent a lot of time as a banker wishing he could be painting. Retirement has liberated the artist. • Sitting at an easel on a recent weekday morning, the 73-year-old Ashy dabbed at the mostly completed portrait of a woman he found in a magazine. • "It is really like the main thing in my life,'' said Ashy, who figures he has sold about 40 pictures over a lifetime of painting when he could. "I just love it so much.'' • Gerry Rivera's doctor told him to find something to do to reduce stress, so he enrolled in a crocheting and knitting class. • "Look at me, I'm like I'm asleep,'' said a smiling Rivera, 48, his hands working the needles as a scarf takes shape. • Rivers and Ashy are regulars at the Life Enrichment Center, a single-story, yellow and teal building that houses what is said to be one of the few adult activity centers in the nation not run by a city or county government.

The key word is activity, said executive director Ronna Metcalf, noting this isn't like most adult centers.

"We are by far much more active, more geared toward lifelong learning,'' she said. "We don't do bingo here.''

The 32-year-old Life Enrichment Center drew praise in 2011 in a national report by Partners for Livable Communities, a group that promotes using cultural organizations to engage America's aging and immigrant populations. Funded by the MetLife Foundation, the report cited 20 cultural arts programs in six cities across the country, including Atlanta and Chicago.

For varying fees, most under $100, people can take courses in drawing, painting, digital photography, contemporary dance, creative writing and health and fitness. There's also tai chi, the ancient Chinese martial art that Rick and Nancy Rogers find so invigorating.

The Town 'N Country couple, both 75, have been taking the tai chi class at the center for 10 years.

"It just gives you a sense of peacefulness,'' Rick Rogers said. "Once you learn the postures, it's so graceful and flowing you can actually, as the years go by, . . . feel the energy in your body.''

The Life Enrichment Center began as the brainchild of people from five local churches, according to Metcalf.

"They canvassed a 2-square-mile area, trying to determine if there was a need for an organization for older adults in this area," she said.

They got a grant from the federal Administration on Aging to buy the building, plus a 10-year stipend to help the center become self-sufficient. It isn't affiliated with any church or religion.

Grants, corporate sponsorships, donations, fundraisers and course fees have kept the center running, though staying solvent is always a struggle, Metcalf said.

"We're a typical nonprofit. We don't have any money,'' she added.

Though none will get rich, the center's instructors tend to stay, said Metcalf, whose executive director duties include taking out the trash. She's been on the job 13 years.

"It's the passion. We all enjoy what we're doing. We think it's important what we're doing.'

Instructor Tim Gibbons has rotated between the Life Enrichment Center and the Hyde Park Recreation Center for three decades, teaching varied forms of art — drawing, painting, multimedia, collage and prints. He works in one medium or another every day.

"It's just something that puts me in my happy world," he said.

While some of his students may be more skilled than others, he views them all as artists because they all create. For many, it's been a long-delayed desire.

"I think most of them had the drive to do it, but family got in the way, life got in the way.''

To student Howard Kanter, an 88-year-old World War II veteran and D-Day survivor, Gibbons is "the greatest guy in the world.''

Kanter, copying a stylized group portrait he found in a magazine, enjoys the camaraderie of the class, which he likens to a family. He's been taking art at the center for about three years.

"I started doing this after my wife passed away,'' he said. "It gave me an opportunity to be active and not be lonely.''

Jayne Lisbeth found her inner biographer in the life-writing class. Lisbeth praises her teacher, Paula Stahel, saying her writing course is the best she's ever taken.

"I have to say, I know my writing has improved enormously through this class,'' she said.

Lisbeth, 63, is one of 18 students whose work is included in an anthology, Pages of My Life, which is sold through the center. She thought that embarking on a memoir was a pretentious notion, she says, but she focused on stories about her childhood nanny and visits to Fort Lauderdale and found she enjoyed it. She realized, too, that it's a worthwhile project. "No one knows our life story. If I don't write it down, my kids won't either.''

Whether it's writing a memoir, painting a picture, taking a fitness class or knitting a scarf, it's a worthwhile project — especially for the person doing it, Metcalf explained.

"You're staying active mentally, physically and socially,'' she said, "and that's what keeps people aging positively.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.

 
Comments
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17
Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It had been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.Honey Nut is America’s best-selling break...
Published: 11/11/17
Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The corporate owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg could be facing a serious federal investigation related to its commitment to take care of St. Petersburg’s poorest residents.In its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commiss...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Learn to practice gratitude year-round, not just on Thanksgiving

Is it part of your Thanksgiving tradition to go around the dinner table and have everyone share one thing they are thankful for? The exercise reminds us that the day is about more than just turkey and pie. And, for those who take it seriously, it for...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/10/17
When the goal is getting to the ER fast and cheap, some choose Uber over 911

When the goal is getting to the ER fast and cheap, some choose Uber over 911

Matt Lavin had just arrived in Charlottesville, Va., for a business trip when he started feeling sick. By the time he got to his hotel around 11 p.m., he felt excruciating pain. "I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew something wasnR...
Published: 11/06/17

Stunning study: Heart stents fail to ease chest pain

A procedure used to relieve chest pain in hundreds of thousands of heart patients each year is useless for many of them, researchers reported Wednesday.Their study focused on the insertion of stents, tiny wire cages, to open blocked arteries. The dev...
Updated one month ago
Vigil calls attention to overdose victims, and brings hope

Vigil calls attention to overdose victims, and brings hope

NEW PORT RICHEY — The room was filling up fast. For Monica Rousseau, the sight of so many people searching for a seat at the annual Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education candlelight vigil was both heartbreaking and uplifting. "I can’t even gues...
Updated one month ago