By Christina Knoell | Pagosa Senior Center
After more than two years of being closed to the public due to COVID-19, the Pagosa Senior Center opened its doors on June 23. On that day, 14 individuals made it to the Community Café to meet with their friends and enjoy a hot meal.
Grab-n-Go meals can still be picked up on the days of dining in. Please be prepared to show your vaccination cards. If you have COVID-19, have been exposed or are exhibiting symptoms, please stay home.
The mood in the room was one of mixed emotions. For months prior to the big day, the critical questions were: Do we open or remain closed? How do we safely navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the people we care about and ourselves safe? We know that most older adults are vulnerable to COVID-19. A national survey suggests that eight out of 10 COVID deaths have been reported in people 65 years of age and older. It means a lot to the quality of life to get out of the house; engage in outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, community gardens, river walks; and get back to the life we used to know and love. Still, we are finding that people in Pagosa Springs are staying at home as this is where they feel the safest.
Older adults who stay home and choose not to visit a congregate meal at the Senior Center may experience negative long-term health effects. Studies show a high mortality rate due to self-isolation that can contribute to mental and physical health problems. A recent study from Cigna Health stated that there is research that suggests loneliness in older adults may have the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Many new procedures have been considered and discussed among Archuleta Seniors Inc. (ASI) staff and the governing board of directors. After an individual is seated, they are welcome to grab a beverage of juice, coffee, iced tea or water. ASI has lined up volunteers to deliver a three-course meal. Most meals come with a tossed salad that is full of fresh garden vegetables with a choice of dressing. A hot meal is served that may include a dinner roll, steamed or cooked vegetables and a source of protein. The desserts are healthy and filled with just the right textures and flavors, sometimes gooey and sometimes crunchy. Every dish is made and served with love.
Special attention has been made to allow for social distancing. Each table allows for only five people. ASI continues to observe the cleaning procedures that we all have grown accustomed to. Frequent hand washing and controlling the flow of people traffic are just a few things that are still in place. Wearing a face covering in the dining room is still an acceptable practice. Physical contact, such as hugging or shaking hands, is at the discretion of the individuals who are dining in.
The question of whether to open or remained closed is an ongoing conversation among the staff at ASI. After all, all lives are at stake. It is not something we take lightly.