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May is Older Americans Month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Older Americans Act into law. That led the way for the formation of Carroll County's Department of Aging in 1972, which has evolved into today's Carroll County Bureau of Aging & Disabilities.

"The Older Americans Act has provided a nationwide aging-services network and funding that helps seniors to remain healthy and independent," said Patty Whitson, the bureau's community services supervisor. "The program does that by complementing existing medical, healthcare and social systems; helping prevent hospital readmissions, and supporting some of life's most basic functions."

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"Get into the Act" is the theme for the 2015 observance of Older Americans Month, which Carroll's five senior and community centers celebrate annually to recognize older Americans and their contributions to this country.

"This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, we focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others," Whitson wrote in an email.

The Bureau of Aging & Disabilities is encouraging older adults in the community to join in the action at any of the county's senior centers: Mount Airy, North Carroll, South Carroll, Taneytown and Westminster.

One major function of the centers is to give local seniors a place to have lunch with other folks. "A major portion of the funding is for congregant meals … served in Carroll County senior centers five days a week," Whitson said.

Hazel Ottaviano, of Westminster, said she goes to the Westminster Senior and Community Center five days a week. "We all eat lunch and talk together," she said. "I love my senior center."

Beyond the meals and companionship, the centers offer lots of activities for seniors — including classes in arts, crafts, skills, exercise and health, as well as opportunities to play games and enjoy group travel excursions.

"I'm taking a computer course," said Charlotte Wheatley, of Westminster, who had been sharing lunchtime conversation with Ottaviano at the Westminster senior center. "I love it, and then I have lunch."

Physical activity is encouraged, whether through a line dancing class, seated yoga, or individual use of the equipment-filled exercise rooms at each center. "The exercise equipment rooms are really popular," Whitson said.

Joyce Heiner, of Westminster, is the instructor of the line dancing class at the North Carroll senior center. She said, "This is about keeping you moving and keeping your brain working. And, it's a lot of fun."

Heiner volunteers her time to teach the line dancing class twice a week. "I look forward to it," she said. "I just love to do it — we just love to dance!"

"She's an inspiration," said Barbara Myers, of Hampstead, referring to Heiner.

In addition to the line dancing, lots of things were happening at the North Carroll senior center on the afternoon of April 28, even though the center manager, Renee Deiaco, said, "This is a pretty quiet afternoon."

Pinochle was being played in the cafeteria, while mah-jongg players used the library. More than a half-dozen men kept the tables in the billiards room busy, while students in the Drawing & Painting: Oils & Acrylics class worked on their canvases in the painting studio.

Allen "Fuzzy" Heird and Andrew Marsiglia were in the center's woodworking shop. Heird was ripping some quarter-inch strips off of a length of pine, while Marsiglia was drilling out acrylic blanks to create a one-of-a-kind pen.

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Heird, a volunteer, is the woodshop coordinator. Marsiglia referred to him as the "chief woodpecker," but added, "Fuzzy's a good teacher."

"We make wooden and acrylic pen and pencil sets, peppermills and birdhouses," said Heird. "Plus, we fix things for people, if we can."

People make donations for repair and other woodwork. Those funds are saved by the center to buy parts and supplies for the woodworking shop.

All of these activities provide ways for older adults to remain active and involved — connecting to their communities and finding opportunities to enhance their skills, participate in fitness programs, cultivate friendships and enjoy fun times together. This is what the senior centers are all about.

Whitson said, "Our Bureau of Aging & Disabilities is committed to helping all individuals to live longer, healthier lives in communities of their choice for as long as possible."

Centers celebrate

In recognition of Older Americans Month, the five local senior centers will be hosting a special meal on May 27 — as well as encouraging older adults to check out their facilities and the various activities and services offered weekdays.

"We encourage older adults in our community to join us in a 'year of action' at their local senior center," Patty Whitson, community services supervisor for the Carroll County Bureau of Aging & Disabilities, wrote in an email. "Stop in or visit our website at http://ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/aging/ to find out the wonderful classes, programs, speakers, meals, special events, screenings, and volunteer opportunities in our centers. We hope to see you!"

To learn more, including the menu and reservation deadline for the May 27 meal, contact the individual senior center:

Mount Airy Senior and Community Center, 703 Ridge Ave., Mount Airy — call 301-829-2407 or 410-795-1017;

North Carroll Senior and Community Center, 2328 Hanover Pike, Greenmount — call 410-386-3900;

South Carroll Senior and Community Center, 5928 Mineral Hill Road, Eldersburg — call 410-386-3700;

Taneytown Senior and Community Center, 220 Roberts Mill Road, Taneytown — call 410-386-2700; and

Westminster Senior and Community Center, 125 Stoner Ave., Westminster — call 410-386-3850.

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