There were hugs, tears, and plenty of smiles as seniors were welcomed back to Putnam County’s four Friendship Centers on Monday May 24, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced.
“Our seniors did what they had to do to get to this moment,” County Executive Odell said. “It wasn’t easy, but they stayed home to stay safe. Instead of luncheons with their friends, they had meals that volunteers and Office of Senior Resources staff delivered to their homes. They got vaccinated as soon as it was possible, and that’s why we could reopen the centers.”
County Executive Odell issued an Executive Order on March 13, 2020 closing the Office of Senior Resources (OSR) Friendship Centers in order to protect vulnerable seniors from COVID-19. They remained closed until Monday.
“After 14 months and 11 days, the mood was exuberant and emotional as seniors returned to Friendship Centers in Carmel, Mahopac, Philipstown and Putnam Valley, and were greeted by their friends and the staff,” Office of Senior Resources Director Michael Cunningham said. “To quote a song – ‘Reunited and it feels so good.’ “
With more than 90 percent of the seniors who participate in OSR programs fully vaccinated, and COVID case numbers in the county remaining low, the centers were able to open by simply following CDC guidelines, according to Cunningham. That means vaccinated seniors do not need to wear masks at the Friendship Centers, but those who have not been vaccinated still need to do so, except when they are eating. All seniors and drivers must wear masks on the OSR buses.
Additional safety protocols are in place, including hand sanitizers at every table and individual condiment packages.
To get seniors fully moving again, exercise classes have resumed and are held outside. When the weather requires, the classes will move indoors. Soon other recreational activities and crafts will be offered again.
For those who are unable or reluctant to return to the centers, OSR will continue offering the highly successful remote programs that were developed during the pandemic.
“I want to thank the OSR staff for their hard work and ingenuity in helping meet the needs of our seniors despite the challenges of the pandemic,” County Executive Odell said. “The staff really care about the people they serve, and it shows.”