BRICK – Larry Quinlan, 79, was painting a folk art American flag during an arts and crafts class at the senior center last week when Senior Outreach Services had finally opened up again to in-person programs.
“I’m finally able to see people and talk again,” said the Air Force veteran. “During the pandemic, I talked to my plants and TV, but they don’t answer back,” he joked.
Nearby, Regina Merola, 80, said she was happy the senior center had reopened because she missed talking to people from her own generation.
“When we’re with our own age group, so many things are understood, like our sense of humor,” she said. “I missed all the people here.”
The programs and assistance provided by Senior Outreach Services never stopped during the pandemic, but they were modified using Zoom technology, telephone calls and more.
The doors to the center, located at the VFW on Adamston Road, opened again on June 14. Exercise classes, arts and crafts, a dementia support group for caregivers, educational programs and much more are all back to being held in-person, said Program Director for Senior Outreach Services Zulma Soto.
Since COVID-19 guidelines have been lifted, there is no cap on the number of participants, she said.
“We have a lot of seniors who have been super gung-ho about learning, so since February or March we have been offering all of our exercise classes via Zoom,” she said.
The number of participants range from 10 to 30 in the virtual classes.
Earlier this month, the center opened its doors to in-person classes for its smaller groups, such as their book club and writing group, which average around seven or eight participants.
“The township has its policy that we’re following, and basically, if you are vaccinated, you are not required to wear a mask,” she said. “If you are unvaccinated, then we suggest you wear a mask; we are not asking for verification of vaccination.”
Very few seniors wear masks during the activities. Soto said she believes that “a very high percentage” of the seniors have been vaccinated.
The classes are still being offered via Zoom, Soto said.
“The quarantine was a very difficult time for our seniors,” she said. “There were, and still are, issues with isolation and lack of socialization. I think they felt extremely vulnerable with their food shopping and not being able to get to the store.”
Senior Outreach Services modified their programs accordingly in order to provide services for food shopping, delivering food to seniors from the food pantry, and other services that were needed, Soto said.
For more information on dozens of social, supportive and educational programs available to seniors, call 732-920-8686.
Many of the age-restricted communities have also begun to reopen. Greenbriar 1 Property Administrator Nanette L’Hernault said their clubhouse and amenities opened for residents on June 1, and would open fully for residents and their guests on July 4.
The community held two vaccination clinics and offered COVID-19 testing for 12 weeks. “Close to 40 percent of our residents have had their shots that we know of,” she said.
At Lions Head South, the clubhouse opened to residents on June 14, but there are no plans yet to open any of the facilities to guests.
“We’re putting one foot in front of the other and taking it slowly,” said Administrator to the Board of Trustees Lin Kolesa. “We’re going by the CDC recommendations, and have signs up that ask people to wear masks if they’re not vaccinated, but we can’t force anyone.”
Lions Head South does not have statistics, but Kolesa said based on her interactions with the residents there, most people have been vaccinated.