Dolly Parton checked into a Tennessee senior center, but it’s not what you think. The 72-year-old country music icon recently paid a visit to the Sevier County Senior Center in Sevierville, Tennessee, for a dedication ceremony to rename the facility in honor of her parents, Robert and Avie Lee Parton. The senior center will be renamed My People Senior Activity Center to better reflect that it is not an assisted living facility or nursing home, according to The Knox News.
Parton’s appearance at the center in her hometown was a surprise for its residents. The singer addressed visitors during the renaming ceremony, reminding them that she’s a senior too. Dolly also performed a song for the crowd.
“I am so excited to be part of this today,” Parton said. “Of course, you know I’m a senior too. When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, and now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m a senior again.”
Parton also joked that when she ran into an old boyfriend and he told her she looks “like a million dollars.” She thanked him and said, “That’s just about how much it’s cost to make me look like this.”
Parton said that she thinks of the seniors who live in Sevier County as her “people” –hence the facility’s new name—and she reiterated that she is so proud of all of them. Parton also told the crowd her secret to keeping young is to keep herself busy.
“I think that’s the key to staying young, and I’m proud to be a senior citizen,” Parton said.
“Of course, we all wish we could stay 30 forever, but we can’t, so I think it’s important that we stay active. We stay with a good attitude and get out and stay involved, make friends and be whatever, and I think being a part of this whole thing is really great, and it is my pleasure to dedicate this to my people.”
There are plenty of things to keep seniors active at My People Senior Activity Center. During her visit, Dolly Parton toured the center and even joined in during an exercise class and worked out with some dumbbell weights. Dolly also stopped by quilting, wood-carving, and wood-burning classes. During her pit stop at the woodworking shop, Parton reportedly gave a shout-out to the “girl power” when she found out the women outnumbered the men in that particular activity.
Dolly Parton was born in Locust Ridge, a remote rural area in Sevier County, in 1946. Parton has always been devoted to her hometown. In 2006, Dolly donated $500,000 toward a $90-million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in her Smoky Mountains hometown in the name of Dr. Robert F. Thomas, the doctor who delivered her 60 years prior.
“I know the grand vision of this hospital would have made Dr. Thomas proud,” the country music star said of the doctor who delivered her, according to Access Hollywood. “Daddy paid him with a sack of cornmeal. And I’ve always joked that I’ve been raking in the dough ever since.”
And Sevierville has given back to its hometown girl, too. The county courthouse lawn boasts a bronze sculpture of Dolly. Parton has called the statue in her hometown “the greatest honor” because it came from the people who knew her.