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Senior Centers working to prevent isolation, provide services amid COVID-19 outbreak

  • Christina Johnson and Meg Ryan of the South County Senior Center hand out bag lunches at a drive-thru set up Friday in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Kathy Porrovecchio hands out bag lunches at the Bernardston Senior Center on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sue Corey of the South County Senior Center hands out a bag lunch at a drive-thru set up on Friday in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Meg Ryan of the South County Senior Center hands out a bag lunch at a drive-thru set up on Friday in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Volunteers Kathie Rice, Leah Gibson and Kathy Porrovecchio hand out bag lunches at the Bernardston Senior Center on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2020 8:15:40 PM
Modified: 3/20/2020 8:15:28 PM

Franklin County senior centers are working to stay in touch and provide services after many of them have been forced to close their doors in an attempt to protect senior citizens, especially those with underlying health conditions, from contracting COVID-19.

Greenfield Senior Center

According to Greenfield Council on Aging Director Hope Macary, the Greenfield Senior Center, housed within the John Zon Community Center, is closed through April 8, and all services are temporarily shut down.

“All of our services are offered in-house,” Macary said. “With the closed building we are trying to reinvent ways to offer those services amid this moving landscape.”

Macary encouraged seniors to practice social distancing to protect their health. In addition to seniors’ health, Macary and other Council on Aging directors are worried about the lasting impacts of social isolation.

“We miss seeing them and they miss coming here,” Macary said. “It’s hard. Nobody knows what the timeline will be.”

The center will launch an outgoing “reassurance service” to call and check in with the thousands of seniors in Greenfield. In the meantime, Macary said anyone with questions can call her at 413-772-1517, ext. 2.

Shelburne Senior Center

According to Director Cathy Buntin, the Shelburne Senior Center serves senior residents across Ashfield, Buckland, Shelburne “and beyond.” The building is closed to the public “until further notice,” but staff members are present daily during regular business hours to answer questions.

“We have volunteers available to provide resources for food, medication and delivery,” Buntin said.

Like other senior centers, Buntin said employees and volunteers are conducting well-being checks by phone. Transportation is still running for medical supplies and grocery shopping. They are practicing social distancing and planning rides so people don’t sit close together and the van can be sanitized regularly, Buntin said.

The Senior Center’s number is 413-625-2502.

South County Senior Center

The South County Senior Center serves seniors across Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland, and is continuing to provide food for seniors while it is closed.

“We closed on Monday, but we are offering LifePath meals Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Director Christina Johnson said.

Meals are individually packaged and brought out to cars in the parking lot. The center is also compiling a list of seniors who cannot drive to pick up meals.

Johnson said they have received calls from residents offering to volunteer and deliver necessary food and medicine, or make phone calls to check in on their elderly neighbors. While the center doesn’t typically conduct such a service, some volunteers have gone to pick up prescriptions and deliver them to residents’ homes.

“We are also focusing on the isolation a lot of seniors may be feeling,” she said.

Johnson plans to reach out to local schools to discuss the feasibility of creating a pen pal program between seniors and students while schools are closed.

The number for the center is 413-665-2141.

Erving Senior Center

Paula Betters, director of the Erving Senior Center, said the center is closed for the time being and will reassess the closure on March 30. According to Betters, Senior Center employees called all their active members to warn them before they closed the doors and stopped services.

“We have no programs, no lunches, no nothing,” Betters said Thursday.

She is uncertain if the Senior Center will be able to conduct its brown bag program during this time. The program provides a free bag of healthy groceries to eligible seniors once a month. The food is specifically selected to meet seniors’ special dietary requirements to help them stay healthy and active.

Residents can call the center at 413-423-3649 with questions or concerns.

Orange Senior Center

While the Orange Senior Center is closed to the public, staff members are still working to offer support seniors, answer questions and connect them with services.

“There is a mecca of services people are finding online and on social media,” Council on Aging Director Tracy Gaudet said. “People are doing well, but we are here to help walk them through things.”

Gaudet said some residents have already been calling to leave their number with an offer to shop for their elderly neighbors. Anyone with questions, concerns or an interest in volunteering can reach the Orange Senior Center at 978-544-3481.

Athol Senior Center

According to a notice from Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, the Town Hall, Athol Public Library and Senior Center have been closed to the public until further notice to best protect the health of the public and town staff.

Athol Council on Aging Executive Director Cathy Savoy can be reached at 978-249-8986.

Gill-Montague Senior Center

The Gill-Montague Senior Center is closed, but Council on Aging staff members are available by phone to provide information between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays.

Reach the Gill-Montague Senior Center at 413-863-9357.

Northfield Senior Center

The Northfield Senior Center will be closed for at least the next three weeks. Staff members are reaching out to seniors and their families to see what they need. The Senior Center is also working with regional transportation to provide rides to medical appointments only.

Those who feel they may be at risk for complications of COVID-19 are encouraged to stay at home. The Northfield Senior Center can be reached at 413-498-2186.

Bernardston Senior Center

The Bernardston Senior Center is closed and will not be offering any programs or meals. According to Council on Aging Director Hayley Bolton, van and outreach services are still operating. The center has begun offering LifePath meals in a drive-thru service at the Senior Center, which can be picked up between noon and 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The center has identified hundreds of seniors in Bernardston, Bolton said, and staff members are calling as many of them as they can. Anyone with questions or concerns can call the Bernardston Senior Center at 413-325-3582.

“We’ve been making a lot of calls, people are worried,” Bolton said.


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