In an effort to help adults live healthy, active lifestyles, St. Dominic Hospital offers New Directions for adults 55 and older. Jean Clark, who has served as the New Directions director for 29 years, spoke with Sun writer Nikki Rowell about their efforts to reach adults in the area. The Mize native is a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi, where she majored in secondary education and home economics.
What is New Directions?
“It’s a program for adults 55 and older. We don’t like to say seniors. We say mature adults. It’s to keep everybody healthy, active and involved. We know if they’re active and involved, they’ll be healthy longer. We don’t want people sitting at home doing nothing. We want them out, having a good time, meeting people. They like to get together and reminisce and get to know one another and meet new people. We do a lot of traveling. Our group loves to travel. We now have more than 8,600 members.”
Where do you guys go for trips?
“We do day trips, overnight and longer trips, international trips. We’re getting ready to go to Normandy, Paris and London next week. Later on in the year, we will go to Iceland. Those are the two international trips we are doing this year. We have a trip in two weeks to Greenbriar. Then, we will do Colorado, Vermont, the Pennsylvania Dutch country. We will do a three-day, two-night trip to Biloxi. We just got back from New Orleans on a mystery trip. They love a mystery trip. Doesn’t matter where we’re going.”
What is a mystery trip?
“We just say that we’re going somewhere for an adventure. We don’t tell them where. No one will know. They get on the bus not knowing which direction they’re going. We give them clues along the way as to where we’re going. Every time we get off the bus, they say this must be the best one we’ve done.”
What have been some of the mystery trip destinations?
“We’ve done all kinds. We’ve done one over in Monroe, Louisiana, and in New Orleans. They’re all within a day’s travel. One day, we had one that was rained out, and we couldn’t go to the places we were going to stop. So, we decided to call over to the theater in Madison and see if we couldn’t work out something to see a private showing to see a show that morning and we could go do our afternoon plans. And they did. We had a theater right to ourselves. They loved it.”
How many people do you take each time?
“On the mystery trip we just took, we had around 150. It depends. We could have 200 going on a trip within the states. Sometimes we only have a busload. It depends on where we’re going and how many people want to do that particular thing. They have to call and sign up for it.”
Where are most of the residents from?
“Typically, within a 50-mile radius. The majority are from the Jackson metro area. Clinton, Ridgeland, Richland, Pearl, those areas. We do cover about a 50-mile radius around Jackson.”
What is the common age group of the members?
“Most of them are retired. They can join at 55. Most of our members are retired, so around 65 and up typically.”
How often are the trips?
“We will do a trip at least once a month. A short or long one.”
What are some other events that New Directions offers?
“We have a lot of physicians that do programs for us on various things. Starting out this year, we had one of our heart doctors do one concerning heart disease. We just had one on infectious diseases. That was very good timing since we are getting ready to go overseas, and he talked about being careful. You have to be really careful traveling. That was really interesting and prepared us for going on an overseas trip.
“We also do yoga classes twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have a great following for that. They love that class. We’ve been doing cell phone classes, because so many people wanted to learn how to use their cell phones better. We’ve had a lot of those classes. They are learning a lot. We will continue that throughout the year. We also do ballroom dance classes. We’ve been doing that for a number of years. Some people who didn’t know how to dance at all have become really good dancers. They enjoy that.”
Tell me about the mix and mingle events.
“They just come and get to know one another. Anyone can come. The last one was at Char. They got to meet a lot of new people and made new friends. It’s a good way to do that.”
How does this benefit senior citizens?
“I think they’re healthier for one thing. They’re active. We don’t want anyone to sit around and be lonely.”
How can seniors join?
“They can go online and submit their name, address, phone number and all of that, and we will send them a packet of information. There is a $15 one-time fee for membership for a single person and $25 for a couple. That makes them a member for a lifetime, and they get to take advantage of all of these wonderful things that we do. The majority of the things we do there is no charge.
“We visit our members in the hospital every day. If they are hospitalized, we want to make sure that they are taken care of. We see them early in the morning. A lot of them might need help. Some are in there without any family. So, we just want to make sure they feel like they have family here when they come into the hospital.”