NYC senior centers reopen for indoor activities for first time since pandemic

Coronavirus

NEW YORK — Many of New York City’s senior and recreation centers reopened for indoor and congregate activities on Monday as the city continued to see progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

In the Bronx, the Acacia Network celebrated with a special event to welcome older adults back to the James Monroe Older Adults Center. Dozens of people ages 60 and older were expected to attend the event, which promised a DJ and refreshments as well as indoor and outdoor festivities.

It’s the first time the James Monroe Older Adults Center and many others across the city have reopened since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago.

Queen Jackson said when the center closed in March of 2020, it was hard. She said it was “lonesome, missing your friends. It’s just been like that. And I miss the walk because I walk here every day.”

There is a wall of remembrance inside the Bronx senior center for members who did not survive COVID-19. And because of that, the reopening was bittersweet.

“We did lose a lot of members and they will truly be missed, but I am happy we are back,” Elizabeth Bello said.

Over on Manhattan’s East Side, Recreation Center 54 reopened on Monday as well.

Overall, about 70 senior centers reopened across the city on Monday, according to a Department of Aging spokesperson. The department funds nearly 250 senior centers across the five boroughs. The additional centers were still preparing to reopen, the spokesperson told PIX11.

Older adults should reach out to their local senior center for information on that location’s reopening timetable and COVID precautions before arriving.

City officials were more cautious in reopening the centers because of the increased risk of serious illness and death the virus poses for older adults. However, many seniors rallied and called for the city to reopen their centers.

“Our Health Department was adamant that before we brought people back into small spaces together it had to be very, very safe. After everything we went through, we had to get it right,” the mayor said Monday.

City centers are open to all seniors, regardless of COVID vaccination status.

At Sunnyside Community Services in Queens, seniors were welcomed back in shifts.

“We are beyond thrilled,” Judy Zangwill, Sunnyside Community Services’ executive director said. “And they are all so happy and so grateful.”

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