Since the Barbara Lee Senior Center physically closed in March of 2020, after the shelter-in-place order, many seniors have had to adapt, finding new ways of socializing, creating community, and keeping their minds and bodies active.
For many, Milpitas’ Senior Center was a place they could go to connect with friends, get a meal, participate in an exercise class, play bridge, and even just sit and read a newspaper. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ways in which they connect with others, make their health a priority, and stay engaged have shifted drastically.
Located at 40 North Milpitas Boulevard, the Senior Center has an art room, two game rooms, classrooms, a fitness center, a lounge, and several rooms for various classes and activities. Along with a nutritious weekly lunch program, when open the Center also offered many social opportunities, and even planned bus trips to places like San Francisco.
Despite the facility being closed, the City of Milpitas has been working to continue supporting seniors in any way they can. Since last March, after physically shutting down, they’ve kept their senior lunch program going strong. In fact, they’ve served over 16,000 meals since the shelter-in-place order began, allowing seniors to come in and pick up food Monday through Friday.
“For our seniors we are trying to keep them activated and engaged as much as possible,” shared Director of Recreation and Community Services Renee Lorentzen.
Currently, there’s also a Virtual Community Center (VCC), which features a seniors section and includes various online classes and resources. The Center is also continuing to produce its newsletter, mailing it out to members and informing them of any virtual opportunities on the horizon, like classes, programs, and social services appointments.
“We also implemented in response to the shelter in place order a Friendly Visitors program where seniors can receive a call from Recreation and Community Services staff, on a weekly basis, so they have someone to connect with, ask questions of, and talk about any resources they might need help with during this difficult time,” Lorentzen wrote to The Milpitas Beat by email.
Little touches like this go a long way toward helping seniors feel connected during a time when social distancing and staying at home as much as possible are absolute musts.
Many seniors who are members of the Center are glad that the City is continuing to keep things going virtually. Meanwhile, in their own daily lives, they’ve kept on finding new ways to adapt…
Jim Arthur, who had been using the exercise room at the Senior Center, now walks outdoors 2-5 miles a day.
“Although I only used the Exercise Room to work out, I always enjoyed interacting with many friends I had there,” Arthur shared.
He also mentioned that even with all the walking he’s doing, it’s nowhere near as strenuous as his workouts at the Senior Center were.
Melba Holliday, who serves as a commissioner on the Senior Advisory Commission, used to work out with half a dozen other women at the Center. However, since the facility closed, Holliday and a few other women have been getting together to walk around Hidden Lake. They all wear masks and make sure to socially distance.
“We walk two abreast with distance between us…and sometimes when we go around the lake, we change partners so we can talk with another person and keep the conversation going,” said Holliday. “It keeps our spirits up…”
The women get together for their walks a few days a week.
Holliday started serving as Chair of the Senior Advisory Commission after former Chair Denny Weisgerber passed away in December of 2019.
“We lost our decorated marine,” said Holliday. “He used to be Chair sometime ago, and then this last time, I had talked him into it again…”
The auditorium in the Senior Center is actually named after Weisgerber, who was a bonafide legend in Milpitas; he’d been Mayor of Milpitas three times and made a tremendous impact here, always serving the community through various clubs and projects.
Last month, the Senior Center hosted an online Paint Night for seniors. And currently, they’re offering virtual Zumba, Toning, and Chair classes. They even have a Pancake Breakfast-To-Go coming up at the end of the month. There are also upcoming online presentations on Sleep Health, Managing Expenses, and Rights and Resources for Permanent Residents. To find out more about these opportunities, along with the Senior Nutrition Program, go to their current newsletter.