It’s going on six months since the Senior Center at Ashland City closed its doors in March because of Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order covering COVID-19 safety guidelines.
That order was set to expire Aug. 29 but the previous day Lee extended the mandatory closure of longterm care facilities and senior centers.
A spokesman for the governor had not responded to requests for comments about keeping the senior centers closed.
Many seniors say they miss the company, camaraderie and activities at the popular senior center.
For Joyce Click, 74, of Ashland City, the center has been a place of celebration, inspiration and cutting up with fellow senior citizens.
“I miss the center, the people gathering around, playing cards and sharing stories,” said Click, who teaches classes at the center in making wreaths, and his known for her quick wit and humor.
“I really enjoy teaching, and I love the activities at the center. It’s a great place to just socialize.”
Jerri Moore, 77, has been a regular at the center for many years, and she readily admits to feeling a void in her life with the center shutting down.
“Love the painting classes so much.” Moore said. “It’s a good group, and we have a good time. The instructor Nancy Hart Reeves is wonderful and very patient.”
Moore said she also looks forward to mixing things up with the card players at the center.
“We all cook and share,” she said. “We enjoy each other, but sadly we’ve lost three since we’ve been shut down. You get close to each other, help each other out. I look forward to all the people, meeting, and if anybody needs a ride, I’d help. Just have them call me.”
Lindy Murff is a long-time instructor at the center, and she is known for her support, volunteerism and humor.
“I miss the busy-ness that I had created, and on other days I don’t,” she said. “But with the shutdown, it’s a delicate line to walk. People are dying from this and especially our seniors are vulnerable. I’m not in a hurry to put anyone in a position of harm. So, we must wait ... this too shall pass.”
Among the classes Murff teaches at the senior center are Tai Chi for arthritis, yoga, dance and S.A.I.L., which stands for “Stay Active and Independent for Life.”
Afternoon Activities Coordinator Roy Dye said he also misses seeing the seniors gather together, but he also understands that they are especially vulnerable for COVID-19.
“We have continued our efforts to clean, sanitize, rearrange and make all possible accommodations for social distancing,” said Dye. “We want to ensure that we have a safe, clean and fun environment that meets all guidelines that allows us to reopen. We miss everyone and look forward to the day we can be together again.”
Director Melissa Womack echoes the sentiments expressed by the members and staff.
“We miss the people the most,” she said. “We know that a large part of their routines depends on the Senior Center.”
Womack cites several positives that have come about during the shutdown.
“We have had several maintenance and upgrade projects going on in the center, that would be hard to accomplish if the daily activities were in operation,” she said. “As for our concerns during the shutdown, they have been mostly about the well-being of our seniors. Many rely on the senior center as their main source of socialization. We have been talking to many of our seniors to stay in touch and check in to see how they are doing. Our concern is that isolation can cause decline in health as well as depression. The staff has worked hard to prepare the center for the reopening to ensure the seniors come to a clean, safe environment, with social distancing in place.”
Womack noted that she and her staff are prepared for the reopening with new guidelines set into place to ensure the safety and good health practices of senior citizens.
“We want to reassure our seniors that the staff of the senior center have put their health first and foremost by executing the guidelines set for reopening,” she said. “All activities will not resume immediately, but there will be a phase in when reopening is possible.”
Murff reiterated the positives that come with socializing and engaging in activities at the center.
“I really miss the hugs and laughter and watching our eyes light up together when the music comes on, and we start moving,” she said. “I miss the company more than the exercise. Quarantine is hard on my heart because I really love people. That said, we find ourselves raising our 21-month-old grandson which happened March 1 and March 12 was my last day at work. My ticket business I run got hit just as hard as the senior center, with nine shows cancelled in a 72-hour timeframe, and now all are cancelled in 2020. So, I am collecting unemployment for the first time in my life, full time parenting at 55, and wishing I was 65 so I could retire.”