With retirement comes a surplus of free time - and this time is all too easily wasted, Galloway Township resident Vivian Bowles said.

Yet while Bowles sometimes finds herself listlessly watching TV, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she knows exactly what to do - eat, play games and have a good time with friends at the Absecon Community Center for Seniors in the great hall of the United Methodist Church.

"Sometimes you sit at home, and all you do is sit," Bowles said. "You watch television and you sit. You move to another chair, maybe sew a little. Here you can talk to people, you can laugh, and it's just fun."

The Community Center for Seniors is a joint effort between the City of Absecon and United Methodist started in 2002 by the Rev. Julie Henry, who hoped to put the church's newly built great hall to good use. She noted a dearth of activities available for seniors in Absecon, and enlisted the aid of the city in putting together a twice weekly meeting group for seniors.

Initially, the group had only a few members, but now routinely brings in more than 40 from throughout Atlantic County. It offers an important outlet for seniors in the community, who often find themselves lonely, said program director Donna Payne.

"They really need some place to go where they can meet with each other," Payne said. "They wake up, and they have a purpose."

The group, which meets Tuesday and Thursdays starting at about 10 a.m. depending on the program, offers rotating activities, including Rummikub tournaments, bingo and birthday parties for members.

A sizable home-cooked lunch, at a suggested donation of $2.50 to defray costs, is served at 11:30 a.m.

The community center also holds exercise classes with weights and bands from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays, yoga classes from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays, and holds discussions on topics important to seniors like finances and legal matters once monthly. All programs are free.

While she takes advantage of the activities, member Frances Weir said it is the socialization aspect of the community center that keeps her coming back.

"The important thing, I think, is mostly the fellowship and the place that we can come together and share our concerts with one another, and encourage one another," Weir said.

Participation is open to all Atlantic County residents age 60 or older, and free transportation is available for seniors who live within Absecon city limits.

For more information about the Absecon Community Center for Seniors or for a monthly event schedule, call Donna Payne at 609-645-0013 or email seniorcenterumc@comcast.net.

Contact Braden Campbell:

609-272-7415