Tired of pandemic, vaccinated seniors return to favorite spots

Jean Weber and her friend Doris Tatum get together during a recent luau at Victoria Landing in Melbourne.

At Alla Prima Styling Salon, scheduler Kim Flohe fields an uptick in calls from older clients who, after skipping hair appointments for months, want back in.

“Some have told me that we are the first place they’ve returned to since the pandemic,” Flohe said.

Like Alla Prima, Freedom 7 Senior Center in the Cocoa Beach Country Club has seen a surge in participants. Not all senior centers are ready to open, but Freedom 7 closed for only six weeks during the height of the pandemic. Attendance was initially anemic, but has picked up significantly, particularly in

recent weeks.

“We’re very fortunate because we do our activities in the auditorium, which has high ceilings, great ventilation and an amazing amount of space,” executive director Judy Brandon said.

Now that approximately 95 percent of the regulars at Freedom 7 have both doses of the vaccine in them, they are ready to return.

“We’re back up to the same attendance as before the pandemic, if not higher,” she said.

The center now enjoys a full schedule of classes that include Zumba Gold, Chair Yoga and strength and balance exercises. Of course, the new normal is not the old formula. Gone are the card games, mahjong and other pursuits that require proximity with fellow players. Temperature checks and masks are de rigueur, as is signing a form that releases the senior center from responsibility should the participant contract the disease. Tablecloths are verboten. After each class, all equipment is sanitized. Yes, it is different, but it doesn’t matter to the seniors.

“People are so grateful we are here and functioning,” Brandon said.

The new way of thinking COVID-19 helped evolve has even helped senior centers reach more people.

“Our book club has grown, because now the snowbirds can join by Zoom,” explained Brandon.

Seniors are happily sharing with Brandon recent travel to visit grandchildren they haven’t seen in months. After classes, several of them make a habit of visiting the club’s restaurant. At the nearby pool, they enjoy the water aerobics. They play tennis.

“They are starting to get their lives back,” Brandon said.

These days, 96-year-old Jean Weber is partying in luaus with her friends at Victoria Landing senior community in Melbourne. Such get-togethers carry significant psychological benefits, said marketing director Lindsey Deaton.

“A lot of seniors moved to assisted living for the socialization and they need it for their well-being,” Deaton said.