Yelm Senior Center reopens after 3 month COVID-19 closure

YELM, Wash. — Coronavirus concerns closed senior centers across Washington state in March to help keep the most vulnerable people in the community safe.   

“I know that everybody is concerned about us and our wellbeing,” said Jeanie James, volunteer executive director of the Yelm Senior Center, however, the closure left many people without much to do.

“Seniors get lonely, especially if spouses pass away or their kids have moved,” said E.J. Curry, chairman of the center’s board of directors. “It gives them something to do,”

At the Yelm Center, people play cards, do puzzles, take exercise classes, share books and there's a weekly produce drop off to help people who can't go to the grocery store.

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James said seniors depend on activities at the senior center and a lot of people were upset when the building closed.

“I appreciate that people are concerned about us, but I didn’t get to be 70 by making bad decisions,” she said.

Thurston County has been in Phase 2 of the state's Safe Start Plan for nearly a month. Last week, the senior center got the green light to reopen.

“Everybody loved it. They were just so happy to be back,” Curry said.

“I had another member saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re open because I got to where I didn’t care if I went anywhere anymore,’” James said. “It’s not good to stay dormant, it’s good to be active.”

When KIRO 7 stopped by Tuesday, seven people were there playing pinochle and making up for lost time. Members sat in small groups and a few wore masks.

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“Us seniors, we get together, we stick together,” Ken Engel said.

Members’ physical health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic is still the main priority, but people said they feel safe at the center and socialization helps their mental health.

“We’ve all been in quarantine and none of us have gotten sick, so we’re kind of counting on each other that we’re taking care of business,” Engel said. “I trust all these people, they trust me.”

The Yelm Senior Center is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.