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A local senior services organization recognized National Senior Citizens Day on Thursday with every hallmark of a carnival but the Ferris wheel — games, food, social interaction and a jubilant and carefree atmosphere.

From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Aug. 21, senior residents from across Calvert County gathered at the Mt. Hope Community Center in Sunderland for the first annual Senior Carnival Day.

The event was meant to help to ensure older people in the county maintain an active and fulfilling lifestyle, said Lisa Height-Gross, CEO and owner of Loving Care Senior Services Inc.

“They love to travel and do things,” Height-Gross said. “They’re active. They’re communicating with people, and they deserve a quality of life just like you and [me]. We want to spend time with our friends, and they should, also.”

Because her organization is located in Prince Frederick and has an assisted living home in Lusby, Height-Gross said she chose the Sunderland location for the carnival so people in the northern part of the county could more easily participate and become involved.

Activities included bingo, Zumba, horseshoes, board games, “laughter yoga,” recognition of veterans, carnival food and even golf cart rides in lieu of the Ferris wheel.

But regardless of the Ferris wheel’s absence, Williemar Cook of Sunderland, who spent the day reconnecting with old acquaintances, said Thursday she might go home afterwards and cry, simply from happiness.

“It’s been a really blessed day. It’s been a good day,” she said. “When I go home, I’ll sit on my porch and cry because it just made me feel so good. It made me feel like … I’m 80 years old, but I feel like I’m 16.”

Although she had a ride lined up to take her home, Cook said she did not want to leave.

“It’s just good to be here. The Lord truly blessed me,” she said. “I’m 80 years old, and I still know people.”

Height-Gross said events like the carnival are important because many older people in Calvert County may become isolated.

“They feel loved today,” she said. “They may go home and won’t see anyone else for another six days, and they’re gonna remember this day.”

Current candidate for the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners Michael Moore attended the event to find out through talking with them what the county can do to make seniors’ lives “much more pleasant.”

Finding many of the attendees “enthused” and “content,” Moore said he heard very little negative talk, although he did discuss with one resident the need for more local assisted living accommodations and how the county can work with the private sector to meet that goal.

Loving Care Senior Services Inc. board member Debbie Funchion of Lusby, who spent the day popping popcorn, cleaning up and bringing food to people, said it was “wonderful” that the event was open to anyone, not just those directly affiliated with the organization.

“I think that for people that attended, it shows that people care,” she said. “But for me … I appreciate that people do this, and that we have a whole group of people that needs this and can attend. I love it.”

afrazier@somdnews.com