St. Charles Herald-Guide

Pssssst! Read how to get FREE STUFF from the Council on Aging even if you arenít all that old

By Derek Clontz - November 29, 2006

HAHNVILLE - What baby boomers and sixtysomethings don't know about the Council on Aging could fill a book - and executive director Margaret Powe thinks that's a crying shame.

That's because the agency established in the 1950s to help poor senior citizens make ends meet has expanded its mission.

The COA now targets younger men and women from all walks of life with everything from competition dancing and cutting-edge computer seminars to Olympic-style sports and serious self-defense classes - right here in St. Charles Parish.

Free food, dances and transportation services - mainstays of the agency's calendar for decades - are intact.

But an increasingly vibrant selection of 62 cool, fun and interesting things to do - also for free - makes it clear that "this isn't your father's COA."

And before you starting thinking, "Hey - I'm not a blue hair," consider this: If still-rockin' Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, 64, and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, 65, lived in the parish, they'd be "COA material, too.Ē

"We've got a problem with perception that's keeping baby boomers from taking advantage of programs and activities and various forms of assistance that aren't just for the elderly and infirm - they're for everybody from age 60 up," Powe told the Herald-Guide.

"We want to get the message out: If you're 60, we've got something you need, whether you know it or not. Classes, continuing education, companionship, a helping hand, a place to meet new friends, a place to meet old friends ... rich or poor, it doesn't matter to us - what we offer is for everyone. And what we offer isn't just the same old, same old.

"You'd be surprised at what we're up to these days."

Here, from Powe and administrative manager Stephanie Boudreaux, are 14 activities and services the COA offers that you might not know about. If you're at least 60, or know somebody who is, call Powe or Boudreaux at 985-783-6683 for more information on anything that piques your interest.

1. Art classes - including watercolors, pastels, oils and sketching. Classes are ongoing and, if you've got the time, the COA's instructors can help you create something suitable for framing if not bring out the Picasso in you.

2. Exercise and fitness classes. Low-impact regimens at St. Charles Fitness Center in Luling are for everyone regardless of athletic ability or physical conditioning. Serious about your muscles and performance? The COA works hand-in-glove with the St. Charles Parish Recreation Department in the promotion of the Senior Olympics.

3. Dancing, parties and "social mixers" are people pleasers and everyone's welcome - but competition dancing is on the agenda, too. We told you these folks were serious.

4. Nutritional instruction and assistance. Seminars and support groups promote healthy-choice cooking and eating and also address weight control through programs that can help you flush out fat.

5. Cards. There are some serious players having fun at COA activity centers strategically located throughout the parish.

6. Specialized clubs, including one for computer buffs (newbies welcome), and another for " travel bugs" - who like "day tripping" in groups.

7. Self-defense courses that take several forms, including seminars focusing on general safety tips to full-blown martial-arts moves that can help you stop and get away from an assailant.

8. Free food seven days a week. Healthy, nutritionally balanced lunches are served five days a week at activity centers.

You can get free meals on weekends as well - they're simply delivered to you frozen during the week, which means youíll need to heat them yourself. Meals can be delivered to the homebound.

9. Transportation services that are rock solid and a big deal for people who need help getting to medical appointments, the grocery store, out to run errands and more.

10. Housekeeping and homemaker services for people who need help keeping things neat and clean.

11. Personal care assistance providing help with bathing and grooming for folks who canít handle the job themselves.

12. Legal help with issues such as estate planning and wills, and also advice on and help with Social Security issues.

13. Help paying utility bills for people who qualify

14. House repair for folks who need safety upgrades, such as wheelchair ramps and repairs.