Jean and I have had the joy of spending the past two-weeks touring southern Italy, with a group known as “Opelika’s Recycled Teenagers.” In ten days, we traveled over one thousand miles together, by motor-coach, across some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. According to the Fit-Bit of one of our team members, we walked fifty-two miles on foot. I am fully convinced that at least two-thirds of those miles were up and down steps! In the coming weeks, after Easter, I will share more about Italy, but this week I want to write about our group.
Recycled Teenagers is a senior-adult group, but don’t tell them I called them seniors! They certainly don’t act their age, and I mean that in the best possible way. Ten years ago, Valerie White, was hired by the Opelika Recreation Department to work at the newly-built Sportsplex Fitness Facility, in Opelika. One wing of the new building included a large, multi-room space called the Adult Activity Center. During her job interview, Valerie was told they wanted someone to play bingo with the senior adults and have a few pot-luck dinners. She said, “You probably need to hire someone else. I would be bored.” She was hired. She has not been bored and neither have those who are part of her group. They have certainly done far more than play games and eat too much. They are not your grandmother’s senior-adult group. They became so active, that a second full-time staff member was needed. Seven years ago, Mary Kuhn was hired as their assistant-director.
One of the group’s first outings was an overnight shopping trip to Birmingham. Several of the ladies were in one of their hotel rooms, laughing and having a great time of clean fun. The hotel manager received a complaint about “a wild group of teenagers making too much noise.” When he knocked on their door, he was stunned to find a room filled with senior-adult ladies, all wearing Krispy-Kreme- Doughnut hats. Valerie laughed and said, “They aren’t teenagers, they are recycled teenagers!” The name stuck. The minimum age requirement to join the group is sixty-two. I barely made the cut! Some of us have recycled several times. The oldest member is ninety-three.
Around three-hundred members show up each week for various activities. There are numerous on-campus events, including an exercise group called, “Silver Sneakers.” They do “joint-friendly” exercises, including cardio, strength, and balance classes. Some do water aerobics and Zumba classes. Some play racquetball several times each week. A group of men shoot pool every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. A group goes bowling together once a month. They’ve gone zip-lining, paddle-boating, and tubing down the Chattahoochee River.
All that exercise works up quite an appetite, so yes, they do eat together, occasionally. They visit The Bulloch House, in Warm Springs, Georgia, once a year, and go out to local restaurants once a month. They have a catered Christmas luncheon, which I had the privilege of singing at this past year. They have a picnic each spring and a dance quarterly, with a live D.J.
When the Recycled Teenagers aren’t at the Sportsplex, they aren’t necessarily sitting at home either. They have done bus trips to D.C., Savannah, Chicago, Cape Cod, Vermont, South Dakota, San Antonio, Charleston, St. Augustine, Daytona, and Niagara Falls. There are some places they can’t reach by bus, so they board airplanes. They’ve been to Ireland, northern Italy, and celebrated Christmas on the Danube. Now, twenty-nine of us, plus ten out-of-state guests, have toured southern Italy, including Sicily. There are many more overseas trips coming up.
Whatever your age, don’t quit and don’t sit at home alone. Stay active. Don’t sit down, shrivel up, and wither away. Keep moving, even if you move slowly. Get out there, get with other people, make new friends, and enjoy life as long as you possibly can. Churches and senior-centers everywhere have groups and activities such as these I’ve described. Please go join one and enjoy yourself.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Thursdays edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.