The month of October has seen many businesses and programs reopening after locking down for several months due to COVID-19. Several of Greene County’s senior centers have opened up, including the Carmichaels Center, Waynesburg Center and more. These centers are all under the same nonprofit, Blueprints.
The process of reopening has been slow due to new safety protocols being implemented. Reopening senior centers has been a delicate process across the country because of the elderly’s susceptibility to the virus. According to Stacy Stroman, a director at Blueprints, the senior centers were, “locked down from March 17 to October 4.” Despite being in lockdown along with the rest of the world, the senior centers still found ways to assist their patients.
“Weekly, we had a Zoom session. We called it a ‘Coffee Zoom Session’ so we could check in with our clients,” Strom said.
According to Stroman the senior centers were committed to attending to their patients’ mental states during the lockdown. Not all seniors were able to work with Zoom, but Stroman still contacted those clients in different ways. Home delivered frozen meals were still provided to those who were in need during the quarantine.
The reopening plan for these centers is large and went through different departments. To get the plan approved, Stroman said that Blueprints had to, “submit a plan to the Western Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging, then the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.” This is also where Blueprints receives their funding for their centers, as they are a contractor of these two corporations. Once the plan was approved, the changes had to be implemented.
“The centers definitely look different,” Stroman said. Now all seniors must have their temperature taken before entering the center, and they have a health screening over the phone before they arrive. The seniors must also wear a mask at all times, save for when they are eating. In the dining area specifically, Stroman said, “There is no self-serve anymore.” This is to prevent many people from touching one surface. The seniors also have the option to “grab n’ go,” which allows them to receive food and leave quickly.
The staff at the centers must abide by these rules as well. Just like the original plan, all activities must be approved by the state office first. The most common activity that the seniors participate in is bingo. This is because bingo is simple to social distance and sanitize after. To ensure that procedure goes smoothly, Stroman said there are now extra staff on site.
The hours for the centers have also changed to allow more time for cleaning. Despite all of these new changes, attendance is still low. Stroman believes the cause of this is, “a lot of seniors still do not feel comfortable or do not want to constantly wear a mask.” The seniors who do come follow all of the health and safety rules that the centers require. All of the senior centers’ upcoming events have been canceled or postponed. According to Stroman, the Greene County community was very helpful during this constantly changing situation. “I always say I really love working in Greene County because everyone lends a helping hand,” she said.