Years ago when I was executive editor of The Chronicle, we also published the monthly Senior Dynamics, which covered all the senior centers in Lewis County.
From time to time, mostly when I was between editors of Senior Dynamics, I would step in to both write stories and put the magazine together.
It was then I was exposed to the vibrant life found within the centers. I remember seniors flirting with each other over lunch. The men gathered for passionate billiard games. They danced, played music and mostly, socialized. For many seniors, it was their only time away from a lonely, empty home.
Since that experience, I’ve been a big supporter of the senior centers, and their fight for proper funding. I believe I had an insider look at just how important the centers are to their patrons.
Flash forward and the senior centers have been closed since the onset of the pandemic. The centers do provide emergency meals, having served 157,000 meals to about 600 seniors across Lewis County last year with the effort continuing today. That effort is so appreciated, but imagine being a senior living alone having to enjoy that meal, day after day, all by themselves.
A day shutin watching TV and waiting for some socializing, any socializing, must be depressing.
But the doors remain closed to seniors longing for the social network the centers offer.
A letter to the editor IN The Chronicle on Thursday by Judy Hunter of Centralia highlighted the problem. She has attended the Toledo Senior Center in past years. She lamented the impacts of the closures. She noted many seniors have died from COVID-19 since her center closed a year ago in April.
“Being cooped up for over a year and not getting this socialization has had a major negative effect on the minds of our seniors,” Hunter wrote, adding she misses playing bingo, shooting pool, playing cards and just simply enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend or two.
She said seniors would do whatever needs to be done to get the doors open, including wearing masks and social distancing. Perhaps that could even include voluntary vaccinations.
This past Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee stated we will all go back to normal life in Washington state by June 30th at the latest. He also decreed starting immediately, those vaccinated would have fewer rules regarding mask wearing and attending such events as weddings, funerals and sporting events without limits on capacity.
Hunter in her letter to the editor wrote it is time to return the seniors to their centers.
I believe she is correct. It is time.
At the least, open up the centers for those who have been vaccinated, and also offer vaccinations at the centers.
I call on the county commissioners to take the lead on this, and to make it quick.
As Hunter wrote, “Being alone is not good for anyone, but for a senior, being alone is so much worse.”
Michael Wagar is a former president, publisher and editor of The Chronicle.