Donna Salem leads the Cardio Core class at the Lourie Center. (Photos by Madelyn Weston/Carolina News and Reporter)
Pat Manley moved to Columbia to be closer to her kids after retirement.
She was looking for a place to build friendships after leaving New Jersey. Manley was pleasantly surprised when she found the Lourie Center, a recreational center for adults age 50 and older that offers classes focusing on physical fitness. In New Jersey, she spent about $800 a year for a wellness center. But the Lourie Center only $35 a month and has more to offer, Manley said.
But there’s something else.
“I love the spirit around here,” Manley said.
Wellness centers in the Midlands encourage seniors to maintain their mobility and strength, enhance their knowledge – and create strong friendships. Senior Resources is a non-profit organization that serves seniors in Richland County. It recently acquired the Lourie Center, long a place where Midlands seniors have gathered.
Manley has been a member since 2012. She said she enjoyed taking the Tai Chi class, one of the most popular courses.
“It fixes all kinds of aches and pains and it’s not strenuous,” Manley said.
But it’s building bonds that is especially important for retired seniors, said programs coordinator Stephanie Benjamin, who has worked at the Lourie Center since 2011.
“It gets them talking to people, gives them an opportunity to stay on a schedule,” she said. “It encourages engagement so that health and socialization can continue to motivate folks to stay active.”
It’s important to keep a friendly atmosphere, said Geneva Dean, who has been managing the front desk since 2017. She pairs new members with regulars so they’ll feel more welcome. Most people enjoy working with a buddy and will come in with their friends or spouses.
There are also educational opportunities for intellectual stimulation, Benjamin said.
The Lourie Lectures are offered twice a year to teach members a new language or collaborative songwriting, healthy nutrition, the electoral process and U.S. history from slavery to civil rights.
Seniors learn and engage in conversation without the pressure of tests, Benjamin said.
“It still kind of provides that challenge that we know is important all the way through life, but especially to keep your brain feeling strong and healthy as part of the social network as well,” Benjamin said.
The exercise sessions are group classes, of course.
And they’re age-specific, taught by people 50 and up, and so close in age to those in the class.
The yoga flow class, and many others, are adapted to be done sitting in a chair to be more accessible for seniors with joint problems such as arthritis, for example.
The center also is used as a place for social gatherings and club meetings.
A local Kiwanis International group that partners with the center to host a Free Little Library, in part so members can take books home to their grandchildren.
“That’s been a pretty popular program,” said Duna Miller, the group’s new board chair. “Every once in a while, they’ll say, ‘Please find some more books.’”
Members recently gave a dictionary to every third-grader at A.C. Moore Elementary School to encourage reading. Many kids have access to an iPad, but might not have their own dictionary, Miller said.
Manley also found the Kiwanis group when she found the Lourie Center.
The center simply has become a second home.
“I joined here to meet people and found it’s truly my go-to,” she said. “If I’m not at home, I’m probably here.”