Liola Thornton is a retired high school teacher living in Town Park, an active adult community in Social Circle. She moved into the community from the Conyers area about three years ago.
When I asked her about why she chose Social Circle she explained that when she lost her husband 13 years ago she was left with a large house, a large yard, and large maintenance headaches. With the ever expanding development along the Salem road corridor, there was an increasing buildup of traffic with all the resulting noise and congestion. Since her son, a semi-retired Georgia State Government auditor, lives near here, she had been watching the development of Town Park and finally made the decision to relocate there. If ever there was an enthusiastic supporter of her new lifestyle and new city of residence, it's Liola Thornton.
According to Ms. Thornton, Town Park offers everything a senior person could hope for. Her neighbors are friendly and supportive and there are many activities, both organized and spontaneous, that residents can join. She conducts a semi-weekly Bible study class, there is a "Lady's Lunch Bunch" which meets and eats once a month, a card playing group meeting weekly, and trips to "hither, thither and yon" whenever it strikes someone's fancy.
Charlie and Sandy Akin moved to the Town Park subdivision after selling their home in Conyers. Their realtor found just what they were looking for in Social Circle, a "Lock'n Go" in-town property that allows them to travel without concerns about yard work and security. The single level homes in Town Park are all brick, with sunrooms and handicapped access, in a neighborhood with sidewalks and a clubhouse with a fitness center and outdoor exercise stations. Sandy Akin said that "Social Circle has a small town feel, as though life here stopped in the 1950's." Her husband, Charlie, now serves as the current president of the Town Park Neighborhood Association and is the City's contact with the community concerning city events such our semi-annual city-wide cleanup.
But you don't have to live in Town Park to enjoy the benefits of living in Social Circle. Our seniors form a core group of Better Hometown Program volunteer "Ambassadors" who work at our downtown Welcome Center greeting and providing information about our city to the many visitors to Social Circle. I asked Martha Strickland, a "regular" at the Center about why she chose to relocate to Social Circle from Conyers upon retirement. She said, she wanted to live near her family, but in addition, one of their neighbors told her about volunteer opportunities at the Welcome Center. That sold Martha, who is a confirmed and consummate volunteer.
Another area of major interest to seniors is health care and in Social Circle we are well-endowed with health care facilities that serve not only seniors but the entire community. In fact, someone dubbed a one mile stretch north of downtown as our "Health Care Corridor," which includes Our Family Health Center, The Mews of Social Circle, Social Circle Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Tricounty Clinic, Social Circle Pharmacy & Medical Supplies and Abbey Hospice. In the downtown area we have our own dentist, Dr. Denny Malcolm, who has served this community for many years and we have a new service in town located in one of our finest historic properties, the Henry Funeral Home, a unique family business "helping families and friends honor their loved ones."
At a recent monthly Better Hometown sponsored merchants meeting in Social Circle we learned about interrelated services and cooperation between our facilities from Mrs. Rosemary Mathews, owner and chief administrator of The Mews. Still independently owned and operated after 23 years, The Mews was the first or at least among the first assisted living facilities in Georgia. This beautiful 124-bed facility offers a variety of living arrangements, from independent living, assisted living, and respite day care to care for the memory impaired. Dr. Michelle Plaster, a primary doctor at Our Family Heath Center next door is on call at The Mews and even makes house calls. Mrs. Mathews and partners Judy and Rodney Powell take a great deal of pride in the friendly, homey atmosphere at their facility. They are constantly inventing fun events to make life interesting for their residents. For example, it was great to see a bus-load of fun-loving Mews residents riding downtown in our annual Friendship Festival Parade!
The Social Circle Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, almost next door to The Mews, is managed by the Cypress Health Group (CHG), which provides management and consulting services to health care centers in several states. Mr. Phil Guy, Administrator of the Social Circle facility, explained about how he works with other local facilities and doctors to form an integrated support system for individuals needing intensive short or long term care. Dr. Jan Bennett of the "Tricounty Clinic," located right up the street, serves as Medical Director of the Nursing and Rehab Center and a number of his patients are in residence there. Some of Dr. Plaster's patients also reside there, as well as clients receiving Abbey Hospice care.
Mr. Guy acknowledged that there is a stigma attached to nursing homes, considered as places to be avoided whenever possible. He posed an interesting question though, which I had not thought of before. He said, "Would you rather see someone living alone at home with severe health and mobility issues, maybe without nutritious food and/or medications, or to have them in a place where they receive regular meals, supervised medication, assistance with personal care, and opportunities for social interaction with others?" I think the answer to that question is obvious.
Last, but not least of the facilities along our "Health Care Corridor" is Abbey Hospice. Many of our citizens have relied upon the support of this organization to assist them in caring for a loved one diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. Hospice care is generally provided at the patient's home, wherever that may be - a private residence, an apartment, an assisted living facility, nursing home, etc. According to the website, "to enhance the quality of life, hospice focuses on alleviating physical symptoms and providing emotional and spiritual support" to the family and other loved ones. Rachael Nilson, a community liaison person at Abbey, described their team concept where several health care professionals, which may include a nurse, nursing assistant, physician, chaplain, and volunteers, are assigned to work with each family or care giver. Abbey Hospice also has a 13-bed inpatient facility for pain or symptom crisis management.
As noted above, the two major providers of health care services for seniors along the "Corridor" are the "Tricounty Clinic" and "Our Family Health Center." Located in Social Circle since 2003, Dr. Jan Bennett at the Tricounty Clinic now restricts his practice to adults over age 30. Dr. Michelle Plaster is the owner and one of the physicians at Our Family Health Center. She works with Dr. Craig Colby as primary doctors who see patients of all ages with any condition. Several other medical specialties are also available at the clinic as needed, such as podiatry, gastroenterology, child psychiatry, clinical massage therapy, and acupuncture.
Social Circle also has a transit system which, for 50 cents each way, transports residents to and from destinations within the city and travels twice a week to Monroe for essential appointments such as doctor, hospital, pharmacy and government business. Also available are hot meals served each week day at 11:30 a.m. for a very minimal cost for seniors 60 years and older at the Social Circle Senior Center located in the Public Safety Building community room in downtown Social Circle.
This covers the gambit of many services and opportunities available to seniors in our City. We would welcome any of you seeking retirement in a small, quiet community like ours, where opportunities for involvement in the community abound. You will find friendship, interesting activities and events, nearby churches, and health care facilities and services for your continued good health, self-enrichment and happiness in "Georgia's Greatest Little Town!"
Madeline Burgess is an active volunteer in Social Circle and the wife of former Mayor Jim Burgess.