Senior groups, services gather to attract new members, interest

SEBASTIAN – An hour and a half into the first Sebastian Senior Activities Fair, nearly 100 residents had gone booth-to-booth, learning about the Bridge Club, the Mah Jongg Club, the Bunco group and available health services.

“It was fantastic,” said Shirley Hall, a presenter from the Brevard Association for the Advancement of the Blind. “It was wonderful.”

The organization holds free classes for the blind at St. Sebastian Catholic Church for six weeks in the fall and again in the winter.

Carol Pettirossi, organizer of St. Sebastian Church’s Life’s Healing Circle, said that the activities fair helped her to reach more people than she would have without it.

“It was great,” she said of the fair. “We met a lot of interested people and it was well organized.”

The Sebastian Senior Activities Fair was hosted by the Senior Resource Association with the support of the City of Sebastian, whose council allowed the chambers at City Hall to serve as the location.

Kelly de Long, of the Senior Resource Association, said the fair came in response to Sebastian residents’ requests to have one, after a similar fair was held in Vero Beach.

“They all have their own separate groups,” de Long said of Sebastian’s seniors clubs and organizations. Having the fair, she said, helped to bring awareness to the various groups.

For Louise Hirst, of the Mah Jongg group, it’s important for seniors to stay active – be it physically, mentally or both.

An avid outdoor adventurer, Hirst resisted learning Mah Jongg for the longest time, believing that it was for the non-active type. Finally giving into her sister, Hirst learned the game and found herself pleasantly surprised by the mental calisthenics required.

“Mah Jongg is good for the mind,” she said, noting that players have to think strategically and analytically. “It’s challenging.”

Through the fair, Hirst was able to sign up eight new players, who will join the group at the Sebastian Senior Center on Davis Street twice weekly. If not for the fair, Hirst said, she doubts they would have been able to grow the group.

“Seniors really need to use their gray matter,” she said.

The Mah Jongg group meets Mondays at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and again on Thursdays at 12:30 p.m.

In all, about 80 people attended the fair, visiting 24 booths.

“We’re super excited we could do this for the community,” de Long said, adding that the Senior Resource Association hopes to make the Senior Activities Fair an annual event.

For more information about the activities available to seniors in the Sebastian area, visit, e-mail Kelly de Long at or call her (772) 469-2062.

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