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Forum, Sept. 5: Senior centers maintaining services in face of pandemic challenges

Published: 9/4/2021 10:00:04 PM
Modified: 9/4/2021 10:00:05 PM
Senior centers maintaining services in face of pandemic challenges

Although the headline (“Senior centers staying closed in Grafton County”) is subject to misinterpretation, Valley News staff writer Liz Sauchelli’s article about the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council in the Aug. 30 edition captures the dilemma confronting GCSCC’s leadership and staff as we strive, in the COVID-19 environment, to maintain a very high level of services for older adults and adults with disabilities.

Like the participants at our eight centers throughout Grafton County, our employees yearn for a more complete return to the camaraderie and intellectual stimulation that have long been the hallmarks of the senior center experience. Amid rising infection rates we must remain vigilant, and our zeal for a “return to normal” must be tempered with a constant concern for safety and an adherence to practices reasonably calculated to minimize risk.

Our senior centers are “staying closed” to the extent that we are not yet comfortable resuming indoor group activities or congregate meals. But since March 16, 2020, our staff has been on a quest to devise and implement substitute programs to keep our clients entertained and engaged; to ensure they are safe, healthy and well-nourished; and to ward off the deleterious effects of isolation. Over the past 17 months, our Meals on Wheels programs have continued and we have distributed many tons of shelf-stable food and other household goods. We implemented “grab and go” and “grab and stay” meal programs. Foot clinics and transportation are available again, and our online offerings are growing. Outdoor programs at our sites include woodworking, chair yoga, bingo and tai chi. Many hundreds of wellness checks are conducted weekly, to assess the health and well-being of our clients and to provide an additional measure of social interaction.

This is arguably the most challenging time in our nearly 50-year history. Without a doubt, the onset of cooler weather will send some fresh challenges our way, but I am confident that the creativity, dedication and spirit of the employees whom I am immensely privileged to lead will carry the day once again.



The writer is executive director of the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council.

Appreciating my ordinary house

When I’m tempted to whine about being locked down in my ordinary house during the pandemic, I try to remember three famous houses in history: a barrel, a log cabin and a palace.

The Greek philosopher Diogenes was famous for living in a barrel turned on its side. He used it to illustrate the virtues of a simple life. When he noticed a child drinking water with cupped hands, he threw his own bowl away, saying, “A child has beaten me in plainness of living.”

More than 2,000 years later, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. The boy who grew up reading books in front of the flickering flames of a fireplace would rise to occupy the most important house in the land, the White House. From there, Lincoln wrote two of America’s greatest speeches: the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address (“with malice toward none; with charity for all”).

Two hundred years earlier, France’s Louis XIV would build the greatest palace in the world, Versailles. With 700 rooms and more than 2,100 windows, it offered 6,000 oil paintings for entertainment and a Hall of Mirrors (357 in all) that could be illuminated by 20,000 candles to provide viewers an amazing flickering light show. Yet at 1,300 feet in length, Versailles was a giant marble-and-gold freezer. Its 1,200 fireplaces couldn’t warm it. Wine froze in the glasses at the king’s table in 1695. And with 700 chamber pots being dumped out the windows and 900 courtiers lathered in perfume, the palace must have been enveloped by a distinct aroma.

By reminding myself of these three different homes, I got through my pandemic confinement by appreciating conveniences that a philosopher, a president, and a king couldn’t imagine: Central heat, flush toilets and electricity. Oh, and Wi-Fi, which can summon Diogenes, Lincoln, and Louis XIV into my presence at the touch of a screen. Magic.


Hartford Village

A new bench, and an old friend

A few weeks ago, I was looking at our mudroom and thought, “I love the deacon bench in here, but it would work so much better if we had something about a foot smaller.” It had to be sturdy, it had to be rustic, and it had to be large enough for our two dogs to sit on and look out of the window. We have a 1700s home, so it had to “feel” right.

I started with my usual places: the side of the road (I am crafty and can fix things), and social media. Most benches I saw online were too far away or too expensive. After a couple of weeks, one caught my eye: a white bench the sellers said needed paint (not in my opinion). The size was right, and they were willing to meet in the next town. The problem: It was more than I was willing to spend. I was going to pass, then decided to offer what I was willing to pay. They could always turn me down.

I had no idea who the sellers were. After making my offer, I felt a little uncomfortable. I finally looked to see if they’d replied, and hoped they did not yell at me for being cheap. I did get a reply: “Hi Robin! It’s Holly!”

Holly was the first person I met when my family moved here in 1974. This bench used to be her mom’s. When she passed away, Holly kept it on her porch. She’d painted it years ago and now it was in need of some TLC. She started to redo it and realized they didn’t have a use for it. It was time to sell.

Holly and I grew up together. We had not seen each other in a few years but always manage to say happy birthday and exchange Christmas cards. As time went by we’d lost people close to us — our moms, siblings — and together we went through those times. We have always been connected, and we continue to be, now through a wooden bench.



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