As counties across Indiana and Illinois continue to see some of their lowest COVID-19 spread rates since the pandemic began more than a year ago, senior centers have found themselves evaluating which popular social activities to bring back now that many have opened their doors.
There’s no doubt the interest is there, directors say.
Since reopening May 3 after being closed for a year, the Banta Senior Center in Valparaiso has seen an uptick in members, director Deb Butterfield said.
“Members have come back in droves, and we’ve probably had three dozen new members since we opened up,” she said. “It seems there’s been a lot of renewed interest in people getting back together and spending time together.”
Other directors say they have received a steady stream of inquiries from members asking about a center’s reopening or the return of certain activities.
Robin Wilkening, director of the Bonner Senior Center in Portage, says the center will open July 13 and is evaluating which programs to bring back immediately to stay within capacity and social distancing guidelines.
“We’re going to keep things light, but we’re going to bring back bunco, bingo and fitness,” she said.
Staff members are working out logistics for the return of other clubs to the center, Wilkening said.
This is also the case for the Swanson Activity Center for Older Adults in LaPorte, said Jennifer Heath, director of the Foundation for Behavioral Health at Swanson Center.
“We’re putting together the schedule now for opportunities for socialization, so stay tuned,” she said.
At the Dean and Barbara White Community Center in Merrillville, Parks Director Jan Orlich says enhanced fitness classes have resumed, as have yoga classes and a senior pinochle group.
“All of our programs are starting up at the end of this month (June), including a smartphone training class for seniors,” she said.
Although there are no events planned for this summer, Orlich says that is primarily because construction is wrapping up on the new 89,000-square-foot community center.
Crossroads YMCA, which includes several facilities across Northwest Indiana, has resumed activities for seniors in its group exercise programs, marketing director Jill Schaffenberger said.
“We have popular classes like Zumba Gold, Slimnastics, Senior Boot Camp, as well as many aqua fitness classes in our pools,” she said. “We also have Silver Sneakers programming.”
This fall, the organization plans to offer its Ambassadors Program, which consists of volunteering opportunities for members, as well as social activities such as potlucks on the last Friday of the month, bingo, a book club and card games.
“We have had the majority of our members return to the Y over this last year and are very thankful that everyone has found the Y to be their safe place,” Schaffenberger said.
At the Banta Senior Center, Butterfield says the organization has a very active pinochle and bridge group, and members are invited to sign up for a variety of exercise classes.
The center is also a nutrition site, partnering with Pines Village to serve lunches every day, she said.
“We’re still working on gearing back up and seeing what people are interested in doing,” Butterfield said. “We’re hoping to plan some day trips for later in the summer or fall.”