Carnival encourages elderly to have fun, be safe

By Katie Demeria

FRONT ROYAL — Local seniors were given the chance to both “remember when” and learn something new Wednesday.

The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, in conjunction with Warren County Fire and Rescue, hosted its third annual senior carnival. This year, the carnival served as implementation of the Remembering When grant both organizations received.

The National Fire Protection Association awarded the grant as part of its High Risk Outreach Program.

Dee Schools, public fire educator with the fire and rescue, and Mary Ann Gardner, nutrition specialist with the Agency on Aging, were trained to educate aging individuals on how to remain safe in their homes, teaching tips on preventing fires and falling.

“They love to learn, and they love to play games,” Schools said. “This is a great chance to let them do both.”

The carnival started as a small event at the agency’s active living center in Warren County, according to the center’s former director Mary Marlin.

Since then, it has expanded to include all seven of the agency’s active living centers from various counties in the Shenandoah Valley.

“It encourages them to move and exercise, to walk around,” Marlin said. “And they’re happy and get to laugh — which is so important.”

Agency Deputy Director Cindy Palmer said the name of the grant works well — the carnival is encouraging the seniors to remember when they used to visit carnivals when they were younger, hopefully allowing them to have just as much fun.

The gym of the Health and Human Service Complex was packed with various classic carnival games, including a penny pitch, duck pond, washer toss and a lollipop tree. Many of the agency’s clients were eating cotton candy, as well.

“It makes you feel like a kid again,” Palmer said.

Margie Banaca, 82, of Luray, said she enjoys meeting new people at the carnivals. She was able to attend last year as well.

“We usually have a lot of fun,” she said.

Shirley Evans, 69, who attends the Frederick County active living center, said she likes the live music played at the event, and, especially, meeting new people.

“I like to come because of the fellowship,” she said.

Members of Warren County Fire and Rescue Services worked several tables at which, Schools said, everyone wins so long as they participate in the educational games.

Schools taught participants how to reduce the risk of falling by improving the lighting in a house, being aware of uneven surfaces, exercising regularly and using non-slip mats.

She also taught fire prevention tips to the seniors, such as keeping space heaters three feet away from other objects, practicing escape routes and checking smoke detectors.

“The stop, drop, and roll move we teach kids, for instance — they don’t know to do that,” Schools said. “Or, they can’t. So we teach them to smother flames, if they can’t get down on the ground.”

Roberta Lauder, director of resource development for the agency, said encouraging the seniors to have fun is especially important.

“At that age, they become a little more isolated, and depression is a serious thing they face,” Lauder said. “This reminds them to have fun again, and to enjoy life.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or