After over a year of waiting, Regina Harper was able to experience a bit of normalcy and reconnect with her friends at the Enterprise Senior Center when it reopened its doors Tuesday morning after being closed since March 14, 2020.
While things will still look and feel a little different—two people to a table, 6-feet social distancing, masks and no board games, card games, dominoes or on-premise meals—Harper said she’s excited to be back amongst her friends.
“I’ve missed the camaraderie and being able to see friends and spend time with them, and of course Angela (Lane) and Birgit (Briggs),” she said. “I missed us coming in and having snacks together and playing games. I think we have a good time here.”
Aside from getting to see her group of friends in person, she’s anxious to resume decorating the center’s tree and to get the go-ahead to start up the monthly birthday and anniversary party they haven’t been able to hold for going on two years now.
“I used to do most of the catering for it, but I haven’t been able to,” she said. “Christmas will be two years.”
Harper, who came to the center two to three times per week pre-COVID, said she kept busy this last year by going to the library and visiting with her friends in her apartment complex. She plans to visit more frequently now that it’s back open.
“I read about six books a week and visit friends and see my family occasionally. It’s not been so bad,” she said. “A lot of people say they gained weight, but I haven’t gained or lost and I still eat the same as I always do.”
Though Harper was able to maintain connection with the outside world, not all of Enterprise’s residents have been so lucky, said Angela Lane, senior center manager.
“We talked to several people who went through deep depression. They would cry because they were so lonely,” she said. “This was their outlet, so for them not to be here, some of them had a very rough time.
“When they come here, they have someone to eat with, to laugh with and to talk to. They teach each other things, and it’s a beautiful thing. We’re family here, so for them to be confined to their homes and not be able to communicate with each other, it was very depressing. It’s so important that the senior centers are open.”
Birgit Briggs, city community service coordinator, said they tried to help alleviate those feelings of isolation by making regular phone calls, sending cards and arranging COVID-friendly outgoings like Parking Lot Bingo and walks at Johnny Henderson Park.
“We tried to keep up with them throughout the days and reassure them we haven’t forgotten them,” she said. “(We wanted) to keep that line of communication open. We love our seniors”
Enterprise Mayor Cooper, who was on hand for the celebration, agreed with Lane and Briggs that the Enterprise Senior Center plays an important role in the health and happiness of Enterprise’s seniors.
“It’s been a year since this facility was closed due to the virus, and many of them have been at home and not had a chance to get to fellowship or talk to each other,” he said. “Many residents live alone. Their kids are grown. This will give them an outlet to reconnect with people their own age with similar hobbies and interests.
“Many people, I’m sure, are glad to see this facility reopen. I appreciate what the staff is doing here, and they have my full support. I feel like things are going to continue to be bigger and better.”
Cooper said Tuesday felt like an “old-fashioned” reunion, and Lane said they wanted to spend the day reconnecting with their seniors and finding out exactly what their needs are in order to best serve them going forward.
“We wanted to have today be like a meet and greet, even though they already know each other, because we wanted to see what things they’ve gone through and be able to communicate things they’d like to do within the guidelines,” Lane said. “We have things planned, some known, some a surprise, but we still want to hear from them just in case there’s something they want to do.”
Under the ADSS guidelines for reopening, the Senior Center is not allowed to resume serving in-house meals. During the past year, staff has been conducting a drive-through pick-up system under to portico at the center’s entrance located behind the Enterprise Civic Center. The drive-through meal pick-up will continue as well as meal delivery to the homebound.
Transportation to and from the center is not yet provided, but members will be notified when the Senior Center van route is to begin again. For now, the seniors who can drive or family members are responsible for transportation.
The Enterprise Senior Center will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and seniors can look forward to fellowship, in keeping with social distancing guidelines, and other slightly modified activities that comply with the safety protocols.
Those interested in becoming a member of the Enterprise Senior Center can join by calling 347-3513. There is no cost to become a member.