Last month’s news that business would be back to normal at the Kent Street Activity Center was welcomed by many seniors, and especially those for whom the White Rock facility had become, before the pandemic, a an integral part of their life.
“We were delighted to hear the news (of the reopening),” said Jerry Osier, former president of the center snooker club and the first center member to walk through the gates on September 13.
“To come back and not only see our friends and acquaintances, and have the social contact, but also to play snooker and the competition and camaraderie that goes with it. We all missed it very much. “
The city of White Rock closed the center – along with the White Rock Community Center, Centennial Arena, and the Center for Active Living – in mid-March last year, due to concerns over COVID-19 . The decision was made following an order from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to cancel all gatherings of 50 or more people.
The fence was “a tough decision to make,” wrote city recreation coordinator Dianne Sawicki in her News from the Ark of Peace column at the time, “however, the health and safety of our residents and employees is the city’s primary concern.”
The news upset many, as it effectively put the brakes on their social lives, with no final end in sight.
“In March 2020, no one really knew what was going to happen or how important it would be,” Osier said. “No one imagined it would go on as long as it did, with so many people contracting the disease and so on.”
That all started to change a few months ago, when the province announced and began implementing its restart plan. On the program, a start in September to remove most of the remaining pandemic restrictions and reopen the doors to programs and activities.
In Kent Street, this has meant a return not only to snooker, but to everything from afternoon card games and carpet bowling, to woodcarving and the computer club, as well as singing groups. and theater.
Being able to offer older people the opportunity to get involved again “has been a welcome relief for all of us,” Sawicki said Tuesday (September 28th).
“It was hard to know that many members of Kent Street were so isolated from the pandemic,” she said. “We missed the constant sounds of laughter and conversation, the ringing of billiard balls down the hall and all the programs and activities that bring people together. “
Neville Beck said he particularly appreciates that indoor table tennis is back on the table.
“When you get older you have to stay active and fit if you want to live to age 100,” Beck joked.
Although Beck said he found ways to stay active while the center is closed – including playing regular outdoor table tennis after a concrete table and mat is installed on the center’s property in the end of last year – he is “very happy to reopen it”.
Long-time member of the Loretta Holmes Center (mother of PAN reporter Tracy Holmes) was also among those who found ways to fill in some of the gaps left when access to the center was cut. In addition to learning outdoor table tennis, she and her fellow dance-lovers June Stuart and Peggy Wohlberg started meeting in the centre’s parking lot for a social-distanced line dancing.
Word of the idea spread quickly and soon the trio found themselves joined by many others eager for activity and camaraderie.
Still, “I’m happy to be back,” said Holmes, of the relaunched center access.
“I’ve been going since I was about 55 years old. It allows me to stay socially active and get involved with people.
Stuart described the center as her “second home, even with COVID” and an important resource for many – a resource she would like to see expanded to keep up with White Rock’s older demographic.
At this time, capacity limits are in place and not all activities and programs have returned. Sawicki recommended checking online, at whiterockcity.ca/seniors to confirm what is available.
In addition, according to the recent health decree, masks must be worn indoors and proof of vaccination is required for entry.
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