The Salvation Army embraces senior community with family dynamic in Jackson, Mississippi

Jul 16, 2021 | by Brad Rowland

The Salvation Army embraces senior community with family dynamic in Jackson, Mississippi

By: Karyn Lewis

In Jackson, Mississippi, The Salvation Army hosts a year-round program for senior citizens, inviting community members over 65 years old to meet for ministry, arts and crafts, and the chance to socialize. The program, which runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, offers several activities including health and nutrition classes, daily devotions, community gym, and workout classes.

In addition, representatives from local companies come to speak with seniors, keeping them abreast about life skills local happenings in Jackson. Senior visitors end the day with snacks and/or lunch, and they also have opportunities to participate in Salvation Army programs to share their talents.

"This program was designed for seniors. We take field trips, host programs, and many other activities," said Nita Humphrey, community center director at The Salvation Army's Jackson corps. "Right now, we have a partnership with Comcast, so we're able to provide internet essentials to our seniors. We have a virtual session coming up where we will do our first Zoom session with the seniors to try to help them better navigate the computer and get them to be more comfortable."

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have not been able to have the program on-site, so I've been checking on seniors to see if they need anything," Humphrey added. "We also do biweekly devotional conference calls to help with their spiritual growth. We have made it where we are available. They have my cell. Some of them call and need immediate assistance. Anything that they need, we are there to make sure that they are taken care of during this time."

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how the program operates, but The Salvation Army and members of the program have stayed in touch throughout the past year in hopes of maintaining a sense of community. A few members of the program have been hospitalized, or placed in nursing homes, so Humphrey and local Salvation Army officers go to them to provide community care. They also take items that the seniors may need and attend funerals when members pass away, illuminating the close bonds that are formed. Humphrey contacts families on behalf of The Salvation Army to see if they need anything.

"We do the best that we can to make sure that we are there for them," Humphrey said. "And making sure they're okay throughout their daily lives."

Building Community

Ms. Inez Rushing is one of the seniors who keeps in touch with members of the program.

"I've spoken with everyone individually," Rushing said. "They tell me they miss The Salvation Army and wish we were back. Being unable to meet with our group or family members has been really hard on us."

"We've stayed creative and keep in touch with each other. This is the reason we're part of the Senior Citizens Program; to meet and form a community within our age group."

One of the initiatives missed by many attendees during the pandemic was in-person devotions and gym class. One of the seniors uses her local Kroger to work out. She uses a buggy for support and walks around the entire store for exercise. Other members have taken to walking around their homes and yards as their source of physical activity.

"The Salvation Army has helped me a lot," said Edna Rhodes, a member of the senior citizens program. "First thing in the mornings, we'd have devotion, prayer, and scripture reading. I like doing that. Sometimes we have a guest speaker and other times we have a chance to go to the gym. That helps strengthen my lungs because I have certain respiratory issues. Everything is organized. We have lunch after our activities, and we have recognized birthdays every three months. I've also had the opportunity to participate in planning the Christmas program, which I enjoy a lot."

Combatting isolation

Many seniors spent their quarantine with family to avoid complete isolation. One member has an 82-year-old aunt who she's taking care of during the pandemic. She's able to assist her aunt, and her aunt keeps her company. The senior citizens program in Jackson hosted a weekly devotion throughout the pandemic to ensure seniors don't feel completely isolated or forgotten.

"We're all retired, and most of us don't have many places to go," said Rushing. "I've missed gathering; talking to each other. I miss the food."

"We're anxious to return," Rushing added. "We've kept in touch. We've shared phone numbers and have a great line of communication. We call ourselves The Salvation Army senior citizens family."

The Seniors resumed meeting in person in early 2021, to the delight of many. Health and safety protocols are in place, including social distancing and mask requirements.

(Shared from the blog of The Salvation Army Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division.)

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