Smithfield Senior Center leads the way in reopening

Smithfield Senior Center leads the way in reopening

Smithfield Senior Center Activity Director Kate McAdam-Prickett takes the temperature of member Sue Sgambato before entering the facility last week.

SMITHFIELD – To prevent seniors from pounding on the doors to get in, Smithfield Senior Center Director Karen Armstrong said the center chose a soft reopening last week with small group classes for members.

Armstrong said the center, at 1 William J. Hawkins Jr. Trail, is not open to the public for walk-ins yet and is keeping group sizes small and manageable to maintain social distancing practices. Members are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, including checking temperatures, and must sanitize their hands before entering the building.

The center is the first in the state to reopen, according to Activity Director Kate McAdam-Prickett, with Lincoln and North Providence scheduled to open in the coming weeks.

“Everyone was waiting on us and waiting to see how we work out. We’re the guinea pig. Everyone is watching with a microscope,” she said.

The center is offering one class or activity per day by appointment only to allow for properly cleaning the center between groups. The response has been great, said Armstrong, and seniors seem happy to see each other and staff members again.

As the most susceptible community for COVID-19, Armstrong said it was difficult to not see members as many are also the most vulnerable in the community.

“Yes, we missed them very much,” she said.

Since closing in March, McAdam-Prickett said the center has missed its membership, and has kept contact and offered help to each of the more than 600 members “nipping to get back here.”

McAdam-Prickett said seniors are happy to get out and socialize at the center even in small groups. During the closure and since the announcement of its reopening last week, the center has been inundated with calls from seniors looking for social interaction, she said.

“We’re trying to give them a little bit of hope with having us open and trying these programs. I hope they’re seeing we’re doing the best we can. We’re trying,” she said.

While some members have met in Deerfield Park, where the center is located, McAdam-Prickett said members prefer indoor classes.

“We wanted to do it in the park, but it’s difficult to do without bathrooms,” she said.

Others, she pointed out, have had limited interactions over the past few months due to lack of internet or having few family connections.

McAdam-Prickett said the center is following guidelines from the Department of Health, Fire Chief Robert Seltzer, and Emergency Management Agency Director Todd Manni.

By keeping numbers small, around 12 per class, and spacing out members, McAdam-Prickett said seniors can safely remove masks during classes.

Right now, McAdam-Prickett said the center is focusing on providing the simplest activities, avoiding large groups.

“We can’t do cards. Bingo, forget about it,” she said.

The center is offering a forever fit class at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, meditation at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, quilting at 9 a.m. on Thursdays, and billiards at 9 a.m. on Fridays. The exercise room is available by appointment only.

Spots are limited for each class, McAdam-Prickett said, and she hopes to continue to expand offerings and class size until life is back to normal.

The center is also offering transportation to Stop & Shop for seniors by appointment, she said. The bus is sanitized between each group, and each senior is screened before going on the trip.

The Senior Center Book Club will meet on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m., and the center will hold a flu clinic on Oct. 15, with senior hours from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and the general public from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Call 401-949-4590 for more information on classes and services.

The reopening came the same week as the center celebrates its 25th anniversary on Sept. 25. Though reopening is cause for celebration, McAdam-Prickett said, the center is holding off on its anniversary party until everyone can come.

“We’re going to have the party of the century,” she said.