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Athabasca seniors centre slowly reopening

Limited group sizes and no kitchen access to start

ATHABASCA — No pool, no cards, no line dancing, no yoga, no community suppers, no music jams. 

Since the pandemic started in March, seniors across the country have been missing out on important and fulfilling social events, but the Athabasca & District Senior Citizens Society has been discussing how to slowly open the doors to the drop-in centreand considering what activities will be allowed. 

Society president Janice Green said they held their board meeting Oct. 20 at the facility, so the executive could see how it can be set up to maintain physical distancing, so decisions can be made on which activities can be re-opened and which will have to wait. 

“We can put 32 people in that main hall, socially distant from each other and we could fit more in if they're from the same family,” Green said. “So, we're going to go really slowly at it and we're going to contact our exercise class list and see how many people want to come in. If we can, then if we can get our instructor, we could do that because it's a chair exercise program so, it's not a super big risk.” 

For now, cards are still off the table, coats must be on the back of the chair, there is no kitchen use, no billiards and no roaming into the other rooms, except for the washrooms. 

“Nothing will be allowed in the kitchen at all, it’s going to be closed off regardless to whoever comes in and no back and forth between the back of the building and the front of the building,” said Green. “And then of course, according to the health guidelines, you can't allow people to hang the coats together. So, that coat area there would be taped off and people — whatever their activity is that they're coming in for – they would have to bring their coat and hang it on their chair.” 

For now, the Lions are meeting monthly in the main hall and small groups can rent the space, but a $60 surcharge has been added to cover the cost of cleaning and Green said they are reaching out to hearing companies to allow locals to get hearing tests. 

“We are going to get ahold of the hearing companies and invite them to come back in. They won't be operating in the same room as what they normally do; we'll put them into the Lions boardroom, and there'll be a restriction of a maximum of four people,” she said.  

“Normally they follow pretty stringent (protocols) anyways, but I know people have been missing it. There was a clinic in Edmonton on (Oct. 20), the same day as our meeting, but it wasn't at our hall so, people were showing up at the door pounding on the door going, 'Where's the clinic?" 

Green added they hope to get programming up and running for the new year and will be reaching out to the Town of Athabasca for a rebate on recycling as they have not been open since March. 

“We’re going to write a letter to the town and just ask if they can give us a credit for the recycling fee because we pay $75 every two months which is the same as the RCMP and some of the other funded facilities,” said Green. “It goes by square footage and we're over 4,000 square feet, but we haven't done anything for the last six months in there.” 

Other than that, Green said they are trying to keep in contact with members feeling isolated or scared and finding alternative ways for them to socialize. 

“Apparently, there is a website that does all sorts of games and so, we'll try to reach out and let our (seniors) know that here's some ways that you can be together, but you don't have to be together.” 

Heather Stocking, TownandCountryToday.com  

Follow me on Twitter @HLSox 





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