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Activities, Dining Return To More Wisconsin Senior Resource Centers

Madison Senior Center Announces Plans To Reopen July 13

Participants take part in an exercise class at the Lourie Center, a senior center in Columbia, S.C.
Participants take part in an exercise class at the Lourie Center, a senior center in Columbia, S.C., on March 13, 2014. Bruce Smith/AP Photo

Four out of five Wisconsin seniors are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health Services.

Thanks to more lenient safety guidelines for fully vaccinated people, more activities and dining options are returning to Wisconsin’s senior resource centers.

The Oneida County Aging & Disability Resource Center began offering on-site dining at six locations last week. Director Joel Gottsacker said the response has been “tepid” in Rhinelander, where about four or five people per day visited the site. Normally, there would be twice that number.

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“There are a lot of people with chronic conditions,” he said. “They’ve been vaccinated, but they don’t necessarily feel secure coming to sit down with others just yet.”

Some people might need a bit more time before returning, he said. Others might prefer the to-go options that became more widely available during the pandemic, he pointed out.

Like other Aging & Disability Resource Centers — or ADRCs — across the state, Oneida County continued to offer most of its services throughout the pandemic, but social opportunities were limited.

Around April or May, the agency started getting calls from older adults who wanted to resume activities, like playing Mahjong or bridge, Gottsacker said. Groups for artists and writers are starting to meet again, and a StrongBodies exercise class is set to resume next month.

The ADRCs in Brown and Oneida counties both consulted their local health departments on how to reopen safely.

The Brown County ADRC continued offering its core services throughout the pandemic, director Devon Christianson said. It slowly phased in-home visits and in-person appointments, before opening to everyone last week.

“We had so many people who routinely came to our organization just to be there,” she said. “They came, and they would eat lunch, and just hang out and visit, that sort of thing. So, they’ve been waiting and watching for when that would happen.”

“It’s been wonderful to hear people greeting each other in the hallway again,” Christianson said. She said she thinks the pandemic shined a light on the effects of loneliness, and not just on older adults.

“Millennials and younger people also experienced isolation and loneliness, so the conversation has changed,” she said. “We want to continue to pay attention to that and make sure it’s a top priority, so we find ways for people to connect to each other.”

Meanwhile, the Madison Senior Center announced its July 13 reopening date last week. Hours and capacity will be limited at first, said program coordinator Laura Hunt. She expects people will feel both anxious and excited to return to in-person programming.

During the pandemic, the senior center began offering a variety of online lectures and classes, including tai chi, balance and yoga, Hunt said.

It’s a practice the organization plans to continue, especially during the winter months when it can be tough for people to make it downtown. Some classes saw better attendance online than they used to in-person, Hunt said.

“We’ve really had to adapt, and we’ve found resources and opportunities that we didn’t know existed before,” she said.

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