Topsail Senior Center helps with advocacy, socialization, nutrition, exercise and more for the area’s older population.
Surrounded by lush foliage and stately trees, Topsail Senior Center is easily overlooked as you drive amid the cars and trucks barreling down Highway 17’s coastal corridor. Yet this facility, located beside the Pender Pines Garden Center in Hampstead, has been serving area residents age 60 and older since 1997. This includes the residents of Hampstead, Topsail Island, Holly Ridge and Scotts Hill.
“Our goal is to provide a comfortable, safe place to promote independence, self-esteem, good health practices and socialization for all our area seniors,” says Donna Murphrey, coordinator of Topsail Senior Center.
Indeed, through its affiliation with Pender Adult Services (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization), seniors are able to enjoy a vast array of activities and resources to meet four of their biggest needs: advocacy, exercise, nutrition and socialization.
Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, is credited with saying, “There is nothing permanent except change.” That certainly applies to government programs, particularly health insurance and tax laws, which seemingly get more complex each year. To help seniors navigate these muddy waters, Topsail Senior Center offers two annual programs.
The first is the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). Prior to open enrollment each fall (which runs from October 15 to December 7), seniors can reserve an appointment with a trained SHIIP expert, who can counsel them about the various Medicare plans, supplemental policies and long-term-care insurance options available.
“People appreciate this service because the SHIIP counselors don’t have a dog in the fight,” Murphrey says. “They’re really great at helping people without trying to sell something in the process.”
The second program is complimentary income tax preparation and filing. Between February and April, qualified AARP tax preparers are available every Monday and Wednesday. Seniors are asked to call the center in advance to reserve a time to drop off their documents and pick up their returns.
Additionally, the center offers several year-round services such as free notary work (appointments required), low-cost public transportation to medical appointments and shopping through the county-wide PAS-TRAN system (see sidebar), and in-home care by competent, pre-screened caregivers.
It’s widely known that people tend to lose muscle and balance as they age. The good news is that these issues can be offset by physical exercise, such as the center’s Geri-fit classes.
“The biggest thing seniors lose is the ability to get up and down out of a chair on their own,” Murphrey says, “so we work on biceps and triceps and do lots of squats and lunges, which also helps with balance.”
Additional exercise classes taught by qualified instructors include tai-chi, yoga, modified Pilates, Zumba and line dancing.
Geri-fit classes are free, and dumbbells are provided; all other classes require a nominal monthly fee.
Seniors are invited to enjoy a hot meal with others in the center’s dining room every Monday-through Thursday at 11:30 am. Suggested donations are $2.50 per meal.
For those who are homebound, the same menu is offered on the same days through the Meals on Wheels program.
The center is closed on major holidays, but during the week of Thanksgiving the Hampstead Women’s Club and Topsail Senior Center staff prepare holiday meals for takeout/delivery and during the two weeks surrounding Christmas, Meals on Wheels deliveries continue through a partnership with Share the Table food pantry, Coastal Pender Rotary volunteers and Surf City Rotary.
Diane Mangus, who has been enjoying Wednesday Rummikub and Thursday Mahjong gatherings for the past five years, loves the people and the center so much that she volunteers every Tuesday morning at the welcome desk, answering phone calls and greeting visitors.
“It’s a great place to socialize and meet other people,” Mangus says.
Others seem to agree.
“We have several people who come almost daily,” Murphrey says, “and we have a few who pretty much hang out all day to enjoy the various programs and interact with others. Thursday’s our biggest day because everybody loves bingo.”
If games aren’t your cup of tea, several crafts are offered as well, including two different quilting groups, basket weaving, painting (in all the mediums), wood carving and more.
The center recognizes that some guests might occasionally want to enjoy a less engaging activity, such as piecing together a puzzle or reading a book from their small library.
“You’d be surprised at the people who just come here for a book because there’s no time limit,” Murphrey says. “A lot of our seniors are avid readers.”
Off-site events are announced as well via a large bulletin board in the lobby.
“Most of our seniors are on a fixed income, so we try to stay abreast of what’s going on in the area that’s free that we think they would enjoy,” Murphey says.
Want to try it out?
Come discover a new sense of purpose and independence. Chances are good that you’ll soon make new friends and become more active in the process.
Topsail Senior Center
20959 U.S. Highway 17, Hampstead
Facebook: Pender Adult Services
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 4 pm; Friday 8 am to 1 pm; closed Saturday, Sunday and major holidays
PAS-Tran services: $3 one-way in-county, $8 one-way out-of-county Monday to Friday 5 am to 6:30 pm. Call (910) 259-9119 press 1; TDD/TTY 800-735-2962; lift-equipped vehicles available
Classes: Seniors are invited to visit the center and try out a class for just $5. Reservations for all activities are recommended (both free and paid) as classes are beginning to return to pre-COVID numbers. Masks are not required but are encouraged for those who have not yet been fully vaccinated.