At the Harriett G. Darnell Senior Multipurpose Facility, the "Real Men of Darnell," as they are called, celebrate their status as seniors, not only during the month of May—National Older Americans Month—but throughout the year.
While the Darnell facility, 677 Fairburn Rd., is a gathering place for men and women, it's been noted that males play a leadership role at the center as both volunteers and participants.
The men are leaders in the plays and musicals, the fashion shows, the adult daycare program and in working the parking lot for major functions (they like it when you call them big “parking lot posse.”)
In addition to volunteering, the men regularly play pinochle, bid whist and bridge and participate heavily in water aerobics, bowling, volleyball and line dancing.
The men have their own special events, too.
In June, for instance, Darnell men have a series of events planned. A group will gather the morning of Wed., June 15, for the "Men's Sunrise Walk;" many will attend a workshop on men's health issues Thurs., June 16, and on Fri., June 17, the center will celebrate the men with Real Men of Darnell Recognition Program.
Many of the men continue to use the talents honed during their careers to teach and assist with classes and volunteer at the Darnell Center, part of a countywide senior services system which promotes and encourages "successful aging" and recognizes that the growing need for fun, educational, exciting, and intellectually challenging activities for adults 55 and older.
Bennie Harris, a retired Norfolk and Southern Railroad foreman with a strong computer background, teaches the popular computer classes.
“There’s always someone here to ask questions,” Harris, a member of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, said recently during a tour of the computer lab.
Like Harris, the Darnell men come from different walks of life.
In their youth some were educators, engineers, carpenters and brick masons; Others were career military men, doctors and postal service employees.
According to the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Aging Services (DAS), Georgia has the ninth fastest growing 60-and-older population in the nation.
In addition, Georgians 85 and older are the fastest growing age group in the state.
Many of southwest Atlanta's older adults—like others across the nation—have gravitated to senior centers like the Darnell Center to socialize and participate in classes and activities.
Their goal, they say, is simple: just to maintain an active and enjoyable quality of life.
One of the most popular activities at the center is billiards. Several times a week the men file into the billiard room, sign up to play and take turns at the table.
While preparing recently for his turn at the table, Curtis Murphy reflected on why he came out to play regularly.
"I just enjoy spending time here," said Murphy, a certified welder, father of three and grandfather of four.
In addition to playing pool at the center, Murphy volunteers by helping to prepare lunch for the Adult Daycare participants.
Murphy is also a member of the “Fashion Team of Distinction,” the center’s modeling club which performs at the center’s popular fashion shows.
Retired engineer William Bailey, a native Atlantan and Clark-Atlanta University graduate, is a dependable volunteer at the Darnell Center.
Every year Bailey participates in the Golden Games, a metro Atlanta competition for seniors modeled after The Olympics.
Last Thursday, Bailey and several other men competed in a Golden Games billiards competition.
Said Bailey, "I participate in this for the relaxation."