Muriel Torrance loves her senior center

by James Williams

  • Hear Muriel Torrance describe some of her favorite activities offered at her senior center. (Slide show best viewed in full-screen mode.)

Seniors Dilice Marrell, Ethelyn Calober, Robert Cason and Lani Newhart play bridge at the senior center in Bountiful, Utah.

Many activities compete for a senior’s time. There are visits from grandchildren, appointments with doctors and for some seniors, employment responsibilities. With these, and several other commitments, and only 24 hours in a day, it can be difficult for seniors to decide what activities to participate in and what activities to skip. The Golden Years Senior Center in Bountiful, Utah is one place where seniors will find activities they do not want to skip.

“We have dancing, oil painting, wood carving, stained glass, exercise, and computer classes,” said Karen Henderson, director of the Bountiful center.
The center, which is located at 726 S. 100 East, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. This senior center is for active people 60 and over looking to find friends, entertainment and have food, Henderson said. “The center is for active and healthy seniors,” she said. The center is becoming increasingly popular, and averages between 80 and 100 seniors every weekday.

Muriel Torrance is one senior who frequently attends the center. For her, the time she spends here is well worth it. While here, there are several activities she participates in, but the activity she looks forward to most is bingo.

“I come for bingo,” Torrance said. “We have bingo Monday and Wednesday.” She plays with about 18 other seniors for some interesting prizes, which add intrigue and variety to the common game. “On Monday, we get white elephants, you know, the stuff people have laying around their house that they don’t want any more,” Torrance said. On Wednesdays, each player pays $1 to play and receives a gift worth $1 for each bingo. “We’re not playing for money. We’re playing for goodies,” Torrance said. “We have fun doing that.”

Torrance, along with the other seniors, get excited for these prizes, but not as excited as they got when they were allowed to play for money. Participants used to receive used to receive 80 cents for each bingo, but the county forced the prize change when it was determined that the 80 cent prize violated the state’s gambling laws. Reluctantly, the center made the change. “They didn’t like that,” Henderson said.

One senior donated these books to the center's library after his wife passed away.

One reason Torrance loves bingo is that she used to be the bingo caller at the center.
For years, her voice echoed through the halls of the center, and was often followed by the shout of “bingo” by an excited senior, but she reluctantly gave up the position after a short stay in a local hospital. “I get too short of breath now,” Torrance said.

Although she doesn’t call bingo anymore, the ailment that has not kept her away from the activity she loves. She still plays bingo every Monday and Wednesday at the center, and she still gets excited when she gets bingo. “I love to win,” Torrance said.

While her days of calling bingo at the center are over, She does still call bingo once a month on a bus ride to Wendover, Nevada, which is a trip sponsored by the center. It is a trip that she looks forward to every month. “I go all the time,” She said.

While most of the activities offered at the center are free, the trip to Wendover does have a fee. “It costs $13 and you have to sign up early, because a lot of people like to go to Wendover,” Torrance said. The bus, which holds 44 people, is usually full every month. Playing bingo on the bus makes the drive more enjoyable, and gives seniors the opportunity to socialize with each other. “It gets us in the mood to gamble and gets us ready to win, I’m happy to call it,” Torrance said.

In addition to bingo, seniors on the bus receive a drink of either soda or water and some cookies. Once in Wendover, the fun begins. Everyone receives a free buffet at a Wendover casino, and $5, which Torrance says helps pay for the trip. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Torrance’s other favorite activity at the center is the sing a long. “On Thursdays we have a sing a long,” she said. There is a band made up of seniors who play, while the other seniors sing songs. “We sing songs from way back. Not from this generation or the one before, but from World War II,” Torrance said. Those seniors who do not want to sing can dance to the music. “Some of our seniors really get into that,” Henderson said.

Torrance finds the dancing to physically grueling to participate in, but does love to watch those who dance. One group she watches is known around the center as the tapping grannies.

The tapping grannies are a group of eight senior women who tap dance every morning at the center. “They are fun to watch,” Torrance said. Torrance has never attempted to dance with them, but Henderson has. “I danced with them one day,” Henderson said. “I couldn’t even walk off the stage afterwards. I don’t know how they do it every day.”

Occasionally, Torrance expresses her creative side at the center during the silversmith and ceramics classes. “I don’t do it very often,” she said, but when she does, she has fun.

Her friends enjoy these classes too, and things they have all made some creative things in the past. “One senior made me earrings out of the trains on the Utah state quarter,” Henderson said. If a senior can think of it, making it is possible with the help of the instructors and the equipment. “All we have to do is provide our own material,” Torrance said. “The center provides the rest.”

Every day Torrance looks forward to lunch at the center with her friends. Because Torrance has diabetes, she frequently brings her own lunch from home, but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying herself. “I bring my own tea bag, and the they provide me with a cup of hot water, and I make my own tea,” she said.

Because this center receives money from the federal government, Torrance’s friends are asked to pay a $2.50 donation for their meal, which Torrance says most of them pay. “We talk and socialize as we eat, and have a good time,” she said. “It’s all voluntary, but if people don’t make donations, I don’t think this place would survive,” Torrance said.

Although most seniors donate money, some seniors donate more than that. One man who frequently attends the center donated a majority of the books in the center’s library. “His wife loved to read, and when she passed away he donated all of her books to us,” Henderson said.

Others, like Torrance, support the center by volunteering. “We have between 150 and 200 volunteers,” Henderson said. Torrance volunteers through bingo calling, while others, like Jim Hassett, volunteers through providing transportation. Although Jim is not a senior, he enjoys volunteering at the center. “My job is to pick people up, bring them here for lunch and bring them home afterwards,” he said. Hassett enjoys helping people, and has been volunteering at the center for a few years now. “We couldn’t function without our volunteers.” Henderson said.

Torrance is grateful for her senior center. “I try to come here every day,” she said.”I love the people here, I love being able to socialize, I love this place.” The few hours she spends are well worth her time. “We have a lot of fun here,” she said.