Center helps retirement community efforts

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Whether they come for the lunches, games or simply thefellowship, seniors say Monticello’s Senior Life Center makes theirlife more enjoyable.

“If we didn’t come to a place like the center we wouldn’t seeanyone,” said Bertha Turner of Monticello. “It’s a way for us toget together and share good times past and present.”

The Senior Life Center is one of several advantages the town hasin pursuing the highly competitive designation as a certifiedretired community, said Mayor David Nichols.

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Built in the mid- to late-90s by the county on a grant, theSenior Life Center has become a focal point in the lives of many ofthe county’s seniors, said Pete Nations of Jayess.

“I’ve been coming here from the beginning. I think it’s an idealplace,” Turner said. “This is a good facility and we don’t wantanything to happen to it.”

The fast-paced lifestyle among younger generations today leavesthem little time to visit between employer obligations and theneeds of the children, Turner said. Often, many seniors begin tofeel lonely and forgotten.

The center gives them an opportunity to mingle among and enjoyfellowship with others, Turner said, and that opportunity ispriceless. Many friendships have developed from a casualassociation or over a lunch at the center.

Seniors typically meet at the center around 9 a.m. and staythrough lunch, leaving around 12:30 p.m., to pursue their othertasks of the day, but the center is open throughout the day.

Although Nations highly praises the center, he said it is onlyone reason among many that would lead him to recommend Monticelloas a certified retirement community.

Nations, who was born and raised in Brookhaven but retired intoLawrence County, said the slow-paced lifestyle of a small townappeals to him. Most of the residents know each other, or know ofeach other through relatives and friends, and people meet fewstrangers, he said. No one is in a rush and everyone has time tospeak.

“It’s the little things like that which make a town a betterplace to live,” he said.

Monticello may be small, he said, but it meets most of therequirements seniors look for in a place to locate to uponretirement, such as the availability of medical services.

“The hospital here caters to the elderly,” Nations said.”They’re polite, knowledgeable and their programs seem geared tothe elderly.”

Brookhaven and McComb, about a half-hour drive away, are largerhospitals that offer additional services to those who need them, hesaid.

The only real drawback to seniors locating in Monticello is alack of businesses to shop at home, Nations said. However, he addedthat is offset by the shopping available within a short drive.

Located 20 miles from Brookhaven, 30 miles from McComb andColumbia, 60 miles from Hattiesburg and 80 miles from the statecapitol of Jackson, Monticello is ideally suited to offer a widevariety of shopping experiences within a drive of less than 1.5hours.

“I moved here. I live here. I’m going to stay here. I’ll die andbe buried here,” Nations said.

The certified retirement community program was reopened toapplications this year after being closed in 1994. The list ofcertified communities numbers only 18 towns, and the MississippiGulf Coast as a region, as members. Brookhaven, McComb and Natchezare the only other representatives of southwest Mississippi.

Towns had been told by the Mississippi Development Authority,which oversees the Hometown Mississippi Retirement program, thatthey would be notified by Nov. 30 whether or not they had beenapproved to advance to the second phase of the approvalprocess.

Notification has been delayed while an MDA committee reviews therecommendations of the Hometown Mississippi advisors, DianaO’Toole, program manager, said last week.

In all, 26 towns across the state received invitations, shesaid. The number who will actually be able to join the program islimited.