Just before the grand opening of the Aiken Center for Active Seniors last Thursday, a group of people were playing cards, among them Doug Lyle.

His wife Carol was nearby, delighted to see his smile.

“He has Alzheimer’s, and this is a wonderful place for him,” she said. “He comes twice a week all day, enjoying the activities they have here, along with the caring and passion they have.”

The new private firm, located on the second floor at Hitchcock Healthcare on Medical Park Drive, fills a need not previously met, said Karen Poteat, the owner and operator.

A geriatric nurse for nearly 20 years, she has been concerned about the issues that can result for older people as they encounter physical or cognitive problems.

Poteat said: “A lot of them will say, ‘Why is God leaving me here’… or ‘I’m a burden.’ What happens is they can’t see the value in themselves. You hear this way more than you would expect.”

The website describes the Aiken center as “an upscale, cheerful environment where older adults can enjoy socializing while improving their own mental, physical and emotional health.”

Spouses or other caregivers can bring their loved ones to the facility for two, three or five days a week and leave them in the care of the staff and volunteers. With the staff’s assistance, the patients can interact through games, physical exercise, conversation and special projects.

Aiken already offers wonderful opportunities for the elderly, said Poteat. However, she didn’t find anything in the area where adult daycare falls, and her husband, Mark, encouraged her to provide that service.

“I saw very frequently a lot of depression, a sense of loss as people get older,” Poteat said. “What I didn’t find was providing reasons for them to celebrate. I wanted a place where people could feel comfortable, any place where they could make friends and celebrate life.”

She is providing an environment that both male and female clients will find appealing, Poteat said. She also has developed “Projects with Purpose.” The intent is to replace traditional arts and crafts. For example, the clients can make cards for each other and send them to caregivers. Recently, they sorted and signed 18 cards before walking across the hall to give them to Trinity Home Health Care Services for its patients.

“My clients had such a good time, and it’s productive for them, too,” said Poteat. “They said, ‘We’re going to make someone else smile.’ That’s one thing I’m really excited about – building people’s self-esteem.”

Poteat noted that, as a nurse, she can provide a medical eye, but she will not function as a nurse. Those with issues such as incontinence, for example, will not be served. Also, the staff will ensure clients’ safety, but the office is not locked and the staff cannot accept those who could tend to walk out the door.

The Aiken Center for Active Seniors is private pay, but Poteat describes her business “as the most cost-effective option for senior care in Aiken.”

The grand-opening drew a large crowd, including Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, Aiken Chamber President and CEo J. David Jameson and Hitchcock executive director Karen Bowles.

“This is more than I expected, and it’s going to be really used by senior citizens,” Cavanaugh said. “We appreciate a facility like this.”