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Glad to see senior lunch programs back up and running

The Millerton News Editorial

There were many elements to the coronavirus pandemic that were difficult to witness — the worldwide death toll that, while it has thankfully slowed, continues to inch upward. As of Tuesday, June 15, it had reached 3,829,463 across the globe; in the U.S. the number of Americans who have died as a result of COVID-19 had reached a tragic 615,247 as of the 15th. It’s been heartbreaking to watch families slowly lose children, parents, grandparents, spouses… and to watch communities similarly break down as they lose neighbors, local leaders, business-owners, workers. 

All across the world, the country, the state and in our very own region, we’ve seen people struggle through the past year and a half to come out on the other side of the pandemic. For one group it’s been especially difficult: our seniors.

Many of our senior citizens have been isolated from their friends and family for fear of the deadly respiratory virus infecting their already fragile systems. Out of wanting to protect them, most states, including New York, quarantined the elderly who were living in nursing homes and senior living facilities, not allowing any visitors, including families or loved ones. And senior centers, like the Nutrition and Friendship Centers run by the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA), were temporarily shut down. 

We understand why such strict precautions were taken. After all, the health and safety of our most valued and vulnerable New Yorkers needed to be protected. 

Yet the emotional and psychological toll it must have taken on those seniors, who went from seeing their friends and neighbors at those centers on a regular basis to not seeing anyone, in some cases, for almost 15 months, must have been devastating. Think about it. Many went from gathering four or five days a week for games and gossip, exercise and excitement, crafts and crocheting, meals and mahjong to being alone in their homes, surrounded by four walls and in absolute isolation, with no one to talk to, no one to connect with, no one to remind them that they are a part of the world. Think about how lonesome you would feel in their place.

That, coupled with the fact that the world itself was on lock-down and everyone was warned to remain inside, must have made for a pretty frightening reality for our seniors. All we can say is that we are so very relieved, and so very thankful that last week a number of our local senior programs resumed, including the OFA’s lunch program at the Millerton Senior Friendship Center, located at the NorthEast-Millerton Library Annex at 28 Century Blvd. in the village of Millerton. (For more, read reporter Carol Kneeland’s article on this week’s front page.) 

Also returning last week was Pine Plains’ free Senior Luncheon, a potluck lunch hosted at noon by that town for those 60 and older on the second Wednesday of every month in the Community Room above the Pine Plains Free Library. The town held its first Senior Luncheon since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this past Wednesday, June 9, to restart its long-standing tradition. (For more read reporter Kaitlin Lyle’s article on Page A3.)

Seniors in both towns said they were so excited to dine with their friends once again, and not just for the vittles, but to see their favorite people across the table for a good chat over a good meal. After all, that really is what those lunches are all about — companionship and community. 

For more information about the Senior Friendship Centers or the OFA, go to www.dutchessny.gov/Departments/Aging/Office-for-the-Aging or call 845-486-2555. 

For more information on the Pine Plains senior lunches, go to www.pineplains-ny.gov or call 518-398-7155.

The news gets better, as the South Amenia Friendship Center is also now open. According to Site Director Lauren Welsh, it was the first OFA site to open in Dutchess County, on Wednesday, June 2, and it’s now following its regular schedule, open between 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The center is located at the South Amenia Presbyterian Church at 229 South Amenia Road in Wassaic, and can be reached at 845-373-4305.

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