Senior Center to reopen Monday
- Published: October 19, 2020
Author’s Note: After the announcement that Greene County had been elevated to level 3, or “red,” by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System on Thursday, Oct. 15, the YS Senior Center halted its plan to reopen for in-person events, reported below, after the issue in which this story appeared had been printed. The elevation to level 3 indicates “very high exposure or spread” of COVID-19.
Additionally, on Friday, Oct. 16, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a health order that lifted the requirement for senior centers and adult day service centers to test all participants and staff; that requirement was also reported in the story.
On a given weekend, downtown Yellow Springs, at a glance, looks nearly as busy now as it might have a year ago. Amid the coming and going of people on the sidewalks of Xenia Avenue there’s one door that hasn’t opened since it was closed due to the pandemic in March: the YS Senior Center.
That door will open again on Monday, Oct. 19, as the Senior Center welcomes seniors back with a “Coffee and Donuts with Friends” event. The open door comes with several changes, however, with the first being the door itself: those attending the event must enter only through the building’s front door on Xenia Avenue and exit through the Great Room. Hands must be sanitized upon entering and a temperature check will be made. Masks are required for all — unless seated and enjoying coffee and donuts — and physical distancing of at least six feet must be observed.
The biggest change for those coming back to the Senior Center will be the building’s decreased capacity, which will require all to register for limited spots for scheduled in-person events; the coffee and donuts event, for example, will be held in three sessions accommodating a maximum of 10 guests each — one person per six-foot table — with the Great Room cleaned between each.
“We’ve had an open door policy for a long time [pre-pandemic], so this will be a change for folks,” said Senior Center Executive Director Karen Wolford this week. “We thought we’d get that change off to a start with a treat,” she added, referencing the coffee and donuts.
The changes come after a few months of working to institute requirements mandated by the Ohio Department of Health. In late August, the governor announced that senior centers and adult day service, or ADS, centers could reopen on Sept. 21, provided certain guidelines were followed. The guidelines included the aforementioned protocols — masks, temperature checks and health screenings, reduced capacity, physical distance requirements and separate entrances and exits — but the one that stopped YS Senior Center from opening in September was the requirement that all staff and volunteers be tested for COVID-19 before opening and every two weeks thereafter.
“We couldn’t afford that ourselves, and we needed to find out how we could pay for it,” Wolford said.
The Ohio Department of Aging announced a few days before the state’s reopening date for senior centers that it had partnered with North Carolina diagnostic laboratory MAKO Medical to provide state-funded testing to senior centers, as well as ADS centers and residential care facilities. MAKO Medical provides the tests, which are self-administered via nasal swab, as well as shipping and lab processing.
Though senior centers that paid for their own testing were able to open as soon as Sept. 21, the first round of state-funded tests weren’t offered until after that date. YS Senior Center staff received their first round of testing last week, two weeks before the planned reopening on Oct. 19.
After the reopening event, the center will restart its in-person events slowly — quite literally — with its weekly qi gong class; qi gong is a traditional Chinese practice that involves slow movement and meditation. In the following weeks, the center plans to incrementally roll out more in-person programming, all to be held in the center’s Great Room.
The Great Room is the only space in the center with enough room to accommodate the required physical distancing for 10 or more people. In preparation for opening, Miami Township Fire-Rescue assessed the capacity the room could hold based on the new requirements; before the pandemic, the capacity was 97, and it’s now been cut to 25, though the Senior Center has lowered that number even further.
“We’re feeling more comfortable about maintaining distance with 15 people at the most,” Wolford said. “We’ll slowly raise that number as we see how things go.”
The Senior Center’s Fireplace Room will also be used for meetings of a few people, as the building’s offices aren’t large enough. Wolford said the room will be important over the next month, as staff use the space to help seniors with Medicare’s open enrollment period, which begins Oct. 15.
Though the Senior Center building itself has been closed to the public except by appointment, the Senior Center as an institution hasn’t been dormant in the months leading up to its reopening. The center partnered with Tom’s Market to provide volunteer-run grocery pick-up and delivery for villagers just weeks after the state went under lockdown, and in summer, the Senior Center began reintroducing programs via Zoom. Wolford said the online programs — which include yoga and strength training classes, a book group, Spanish and French classes and a weekly “Lunch and Learn” with guest speakers — have been well-utilized.
“We’ve had a lot of people using the Zoom events — sometimes from as far away as California, Montana, Florida, Michigan,” Wolford said. “Whether these were locals who got caught out of state when the pandemic hit or if they were family or friends of locals, people enjoyed having a way to meet with others.”
The Senior Center will continue to offer a hybrid model of in-person and online events after reopening. Wolford said some Senior Center frequenters are still feeling the risk is too great to gather with others in the building — “We’re all looking at crowded venues with a certain amount of anxiety,” she said — and the programs are a boon to those with mobility issues or transportation needs, especially as the cold winter months approach. The online programs have also been used by seniors in nearby towns like Xenia and Fairborn who haven’t had access to virtual programming through their own local senior centers.
Wolford said the necessity of online programming has changed the way the Senior Center has looked at its traditional programming model when thinking about the future.
“This has made us think about the technology needs beyond the pandemic,” she said. “It gives people the opportunity to engage at home, and that’s something we should continue to offer in the future, pandemic or no pandemic.”
To that end, last month, the center received a grant to purchase a fleet of Chromebook laptops, and those will be available for loan to Senior Center members the week of reopening. The computers, in conjunction with a video training workshop, are meant to help seniors increase their computer literacy and stay connected while at home.
As grateful as Wolford is for all the digital connection the Senior Center has been able to provide, she said she’s looking forward to seeing many faces she’s missed since March, including the Senior Center’s many dedicated volunteers.
“They’ve missed us and we’ve missed them,” she said. “It’s going to be really great to welcome people back.”
“Coffee and Donuts with Friends” will be held Monday, Oct. 19. Three half-hour sessions will be held: 9:45–10:15 a.m., 10:30–11 a.m. and 11:15–11:45 a.m. Each session will be limited to 10 people. Those attending must register in advance by calling the Senior Center at 937-767-5751; those not registered in advance will not be allowed to enter. Physical distancing will be observed and masks are required unless eating and drinking. No transportation will be provided.
For more information on future in-person programming, call the Senior Center or visit ysseniors.org.