Grant helps area elderly stay active

As Datin Combs placed his piece down on the table during a game of Spinners, he let out a hearty laugh. His opponents joined in with laughter as well, filling a usually quiet Grambling Community Center.Every Wednesday, the elderly in the surrounding communities meet at the Community Center in order to participate in several activities, such as Scrabble, bingo, Pokeno, quilting, dominoes, and checkers. The program, funded by a service-learning grant, is being managed by Dr. Grace Tatem, an associate professor of social work.

“We’re trying to increase their quality of life,” Tatem said. “It’s a need that I have learned from living here and working here.”

The grant, which is a matching grant for $45,000, pays for the program, and the state pays for the transportation of the elderly. The grant requires for students to donate 30 hours of their time per semester, separate from classes, for the program.

The Enhancing the Quality of Life for Senior Citizens in a Rural Community after the Trauma of Katrina/Rita Grant was awarded to eight schools in Louisiana.

The program is well received by the community.

“The older people have nothing to do in this city,” said Edward Adams, the grandson of Charles P. Adams, founder of GSU. “We need something to stimulate our minds.”

The program is not only important to the elderly in the community, but also to the students who work with them, said Tatem.

“They are learning and listening as they donate their time,” she explained. “They are learning basic service learning skills. All of this is part of being a social worker.”

While the program is fairly new, it may not be around much longer. The program started in January on the service-learning grant, which is a one-time grant. Tatem said she is working to see if she can obtain funding.

“We’re hoping we can continue (the program),” said Tatem.

The program has become a very part of the community, as around 20 elderly participated and laughed at a recent Wednesday session, some long after the program had concluded.

“See how much fun they’re having,” said Tatem, pointing to Combs as he placed his piece down, making the table burst into laughter. Tatem also said that anyone can help out with the effort and can call her at (318) 274-3302.

As the laughter subsided, the significance of the program didn’t.

“I consider myself a senior citizen,” said Combs, 51. “This gets us mentally and physically active. This is very important.