Westfield Senior Center remains open with ‘modifications’

WESTFIELD- A “thoughtfully developed” plan with seniors in mind during the coronavirus pandemic will be implemented this week at the Westfield Senior Center, according to Tina Gorman, executive director, Westfield Council on Aging.

“The Westfield Senior Center will remain open with programs and activities sharply curtailed, but meals and services continued, with modifications,” said Gorman.

Gorman said since seniors are the most “at-risk” for complications from the virus, the Council on Aging (COA) staff didn’t think that closing the center for an extended period of time would serve their needs. 

As part of the emergency response, Gorman is also involved in a weekly conference call with COA directors across the state, organized by the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA).

“The situations, problems, and solutions that we will discuss will be unique to COAs and senior centers,” said Gorman. “MCOA is also collecting data regarding the status of senior centers across the state. That database is fluid so that we can remain updated as things change.”

Gorman said the plan with new guidelines will go into effect on Tuesday, March 17.

“We will be open on March 16 for our regular congregate lunch and a few programs,” said Gorman, adding, “however, all fitness classes have been cancelled.”

Limited services will be offered to the public from March 17-27 at the senior center.

“All social activities and group programs will be discontinued during this time period,” said Gorman, noting that includes morning coffee, fitness classes, and support groups.

The Games Room, Fitness Room, Creativity Center, and Learning Center will be closed for all individual, social, and group activities.

“Upcoming special events have been cancelled or postponed,” said Gorman. “Those who have purchased tickets in advance will be notified by phone regarding the status of the event.”

With the Great Room closed for congregate meals from March 17-27, take-out meals will be available for $3. Persons interested in purchasing a meal should call the senior center at (413) 562-6435 from 8:30 – 10 a.m. and provide a name and telephone number. The meal will be available for a drive-by pick-up near the senior center front patio from 11 – 12:30 that day.

“Please note that meals will be cooked but will have to be heated at home,” said Gorman.

Services also being impacted at this time include AARP tax assistance.

“The tax assistance program has been discontinued until further notice,” said Gorman. “AARP is awaiting official notice regarding the possible extension of the federal and state filing deadline. Until that decision is made, those scheduled for tax assistance should make other arrangements to file their taxes. We are very sorry for this inconvenience.”

Karen Noblit, senior benefits coordinator, will conduct all SHINE meetings over the telephone at this time, and Mary Ellen Asher, RN, wellness nurse, will be at the senior center on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. – 12 for blood pressure checks. 

“Mary Ellen is also available for telephone consultations during that time period,” said Gorman.

Gorman noted that medical equipment loans will continue, however, individuals are asked to call first to ensure an item is available.

For residents who take part in the Westfield Middle School Senior Lunch Program, bagged lunches will be offered for pick-up at Abner Gibbs School, 50 West Silver St., from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. from March 16-20 and March 23-27.

“Please remember that older adults are most at-risk for the coronavirus,” said Gorman. “Please stay home if you feel sick and avoid close contact with others.”

Gorman emphasized that the senior center staff is “just a phone call away” for anyone who may have questions or concerns. 

“As the coronavirus situation changes, we will keep the public updated on the status of our services and programs,” said Gorman.

Gorman added that seniors in particular might find a “silver lining” in this situation.

“Take this ‘time-out’ opportunity to reconnect with friends and relatives by phone, enjoy some fresh air and stroll around your home outside, exercise while you watch television, read a good book, and prepare some comfort food,” said Gorman. “It’s a good time for all of us to ‘stop and smell the roses.’”

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