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Commissioners celebrate Older Americans Month with Senior Center, AAA7 representatives

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Highland County commissioners recognized May as Older Americans Month during their May 1 meeting. Pictured are: (front, seated) Gene and Jo Fetters of the Highland County Senior Citizens Center; (center, l-r) Diana Combs, Mechell Karnes, Lin Packard, Patty Roades, Shirley Foster, Ruth Spendlove and Juanita Kelley of the Senior Center; Bonnie Buchanan of Area Agency on Aging District 7; Geneva Vaughan and Pat Ziesemer of the Senior Center; and (back, l-r) commissioners Brad Roades, David Daniels and Terry Britton. (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Caitlin Forsha, The Highland County Press

Highland County commissioners David Daniels, Brad Roades and Terry Britton recognized May as Older Americans Month, celebrating the occasion with representatives from two local organizations during the commission’s Wednesday, May 1 meeting.

Accepting the proclamation were Bonnie Buchanan, Area Agency on Aging District 7 Community Outreach and Training Manager; Highland County Senior Citizens Center Director Mechell Karnes and Executive Assistant Lin Packard; and several other Senior Center members, including Diana Combs, Gene and Jo Fetters, Shirley Foster, Juanita Kelley, Patty Roades, Ruth Spendlove, Geneva Vaughan and Pat Ziesemer, 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living and information presented by Buchanan, this year’s Older Americans Month theme, “Powered by Connection, highlights the importance of meaningful relationships and social connections on health and well-being.” 

That was also the theme of the meeting, particularly with the Senior Center representatives, as pointed out by Buchanan.

“Certainly you can witness that firsthand, all of the connections in the room,” she said.

The Senior Center members spoke to commissioners about the friendships they’ve made with each other, with other members and with Karnes herself at the center.

“I look forward to going every week,” Gene Fetters said. “I enjoy it. I really do.” 

Combs said that her niece and nephew bought her a membership and encouraged her to just “drop in and check it out,” and doing so helped her through a tough time in her life.

“One of the biggest things that I really loved about the whole place was the music,” she said. “I play the chair volleyball. I do the bingo whenever I can. The one great thing is they give that hot meal in the afternoon, and it is just such a joy to sit down with people and fellowship with one another and just do all the activities and things that comes with it. It really has touched my heart.”

Combs added that she has made “such good friends” as a member of the Center. “I’ve been blessed, really,” she said. “I just love it there.”

Jo Fetters agreed, saying the “very friendly atmosphere” there makes it better than the center they belong to in Florida.

“This has a variety,” she said. “You wouldn't know that they're seniors. There's so much to do. It's so fun. It's just like our home away from home. We just can't wait to get in there, and honestly, when I go to Florida and come back, I look forward to going to that center versus the one in Florida. We enjoy Florida’s center, but it's nothing like this. 

“Everybody just seems like one big family. We help each other, if anybody needs help. You know there's a lot of needs, but it's just a unique place that you go and it fulfills your heart.”

Kelley, who said she has been a member since 2000, said she enjoys the opportunity to help Karnes with “anything that she needs me to help her with,” including organizing fundraisers.

“Just recently, we started doing cake walks,” Kelley said. “It doesn't have to be cakes — we make pies, we make fudge, we make brownies — and we put numbers on the floor, and you walk around and someone wins. They really enjoy it. 

“The money that we collect for that, we’re buying new card tables. That way, Mechell doesn't have to use her budget money. It helps, so we're going to continue and keep building that money up after we get all the card tables we need. Then we can buy new games, or whatever we need, to help the people enjoy our center.”

Kelley added that she “loves this lady,” motioning to Karnes.

“She’s like a daughter to me,” Kelley said. “Anything I can help her with, that's what I'm going to do.”

Foster pointed out that the Senior Center also opens up opportunities to build relationships with younger generations as well, including through their annual Elvis Presley tribute show, which is a huge hit with people of all ages.

“A few years ago, [I invited] my granddaughter. I said, ‘I’m going to go, would you like to go? You probably won't like it,’” Foster said. “Now, she cannot wait to go every year, and I noticed this year, we have more younger people there. So you don't have to be old to get into some of our activities.”

Karnes and Buchanan also spoke on behalf on their respective organizations and explained the services the Senior Center and AAA7 provide to the community.

“There's so much to do at the Senior Center,” Karnes said. “We have so many different activities, free services, educational opportunities.

“We get together and participate in chair volleyball. We have a gym that's included in our membership. We have live music, we have billiards, we have art groups, different card games, all different kinds of activities, and we recently just started playing shuffleboard again. While going through the center's photo albums, I found a picture of them playing shuffleboard with the same set that's implemented in our tile in 1975.”

Packard added that there are “a lot of educational things” offered at the Center as well, including free tax preparation, Medicare counseling, monthly sugar checks and blood pressure checks, as well as other medical screenings. 

“We all welcome new people in,” Packard said.

Karnes, who provided copies of the Senior Center’s quarterly newsletter, said that the aforementioned return of popular Elvis Presley tribute artist Tyler Christopher in March sold out, as they raised $12,268 for the center, selling 263 tickets.

As mentioned by Kelley, the senior center is organizing multiple other fundraisers, including an upcoming fundraiser at Kona Ice in the Rural King parking lot May 2 from 2-4 p.m. and at Big Ernie’s Pizza May 7 from 4-9 p.m. A portion of sales during those time frames will be donated to the Center. 

Additional recent fundraisers include selling hot chocolate bombs and build-a-buddy creation boxes, with more planned as the year goes on.

The Center also provides home-delivered meals to private-pay clients as well as those in the AAA7’s PASSPORT program, Monday through Friday. Lunch at the Senior Center is served Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays for $5 (desserts are $1), and a new take-home meal option is in the works, according to the newsletter.

Karnes encouraged the community to consider a membership in the Senior Center. Annual options include a standard membership for ages 50-89 for $20/year; a free “lifetime membership” for those 90 and older; or an associate membership for individuals ages 21-49 for $25/year.

“We are looking forward to getting to know more folks,” Karnes said. “Everyone's welcome. You don't have to be a resident of Highland County to be a member.”

For more information, visit the Center at 185 Muntz St., Hillsboro; call (937) 393-4745; or follow the Highland County Senior Citizens Center Facebook page.

Buchanan also briefly addressed commissioners on services offered by AAA7.

According to their website, AAA7 “administers programs for the elderly funded by the state and federal governments. Federal funds under the Older Americans Act and the Health Care Financing Administration, as well as all state funds, are received through the Ohio Department of Aging. The Agency contracts with agencies and then channels funds through this network of service providers. These agency providers include senior centers, community action agencies, home health agencies, health departments, etc.” The following counties are served by District 7: Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto and Vinton.

The AAA7 works to help individuals “stay independent as possible … for as long as possible,” Buchanan told commissioners.

“That can be in your own home, that can in a relative's home — anything that is going to avoid or delay a more permanent, more restrictive, institutional kind of placement, we want to help folks do that,” she said.

In 2023, AAA7 served 640 Highland County residents, Buchanan said, and across the 10-county region, 3,600 individuals took advantage of AAA7’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which is open to individuals 60 and older meeting income eligibility requirements. (For more information, see:

“The Senior Farmers Market is a very popular program, and it's done lots of wonderful, good things,” Buchanan said. “We have not received the applications yet. We're still waiting, and as soon as those come out, we'll get those distributed so folks can their card to get the coupons and all of that stuff.”

As members of Highland County Community Action Organization were in attendance for an unrelated appointment, Buchanan said that the Area Agency on Aging enjoys a partnership with them on the Healthy Aging Grant program. 

Buchanan added that AAA7 also has a new QR code for partners or anyone in the community “to make referrals for anyone who might be in need of our services.”

More information on the AAA7 and their services can be found at, emailing or by calling 1-800-582-7277 (TTY: 711). They also have a Facebook page @AreaAgencyOnAgingDistrict7. 

“We're here to help in any way we can, so feel free to reach out and just ask,” Buchanan said.

After meeting with the group, Commissioner Roades read the proclamation at Daniels’ invitation, due to Roades’ mother, Patty, being among those in attendance. The proclamation recognizes May as Older Americans Month in Highland County and “calls upon our residents to join us in recognizing the contributions of our older citizens and promoting programs and activities that foster connection, inclusion and support for older adults.” 

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