Sandy Mason works out almost every day at the Town ’N Country Senior Center, sometimes two to three times a day.
She has plenty of company. More than 800 people take advantage of the center and the exercise programs and social events that are offered. Mason said she is 68, but she is in better shape than many school-aged children.
Not for her age, but for any age.
Mason, like so many Tampa Bay seniors, has made a whole new social life out of the center. People come from all over Hillsborough County, not just for the exercise, but also for the friendship.
“I have made so many great friends since I started here,” Mason said. “We do everything together — not just the classes, but lunches, field trips. I need to be on the go all the time.”
Mason is a Tampa native who is fortunate enough that four of her best friends from high school also belong to the center.
She participates in a full slate of classes, including tai chi, stretch and tone, cardio and Zumba.
She used to belong to a national chain gym, but felt alive once she stopped by the center.
“I barely knew a soul when I started here,” she said. “Now, almost all of my friends are here. It makes me feel so alive.”
Hugh Sullivan, 72, is the vice-president of the advisory council and the vice-president of the outreach program.
With more than 800 members, Sullivan said it’s becoming a bit crowded.
“If we could just have some more space, that would really be something,” Sullivan said. “We are about more than just fitness and lunch. We offer creative writing, watercolor painting, bingo — that’s very popular — and at least eight exercise classes every day.
“We all get to stay pretty active.”
Six years ago, Sullivan had both of his knees replaced. He had to sit down just to pull his pants on. Not any more.
“I have been active my whole life, but once my knees were replaced it got tough,” Sullivan said. “Once I got here and started with the exercise programs, it all changed. Now I can put on my trousers standing up.”
Being inactive for a long period of time, he said, is an obstacle that is easily overcome.
“It’s all mental and physical,” Sullivan said. “I spent 40 years active Navy, then another nine with the Marines, so I figured it was all over. Then, I quit smoking, got my knees replaced, and started up here. I might not be in the best shape, but I’m in better shape than I was when I was 65.”
Sullivan added that one of the best things about the center is that it cuts across all social lines. Friends, he said, are made easily, and that is what makes the place so special.
Town ’N Country Senior Center is located at 7606 Paula Drive in Tampa off of Hillsborough Avenue.