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Senior groups hit hard by pandemic

Submitted Photo Cecil Miller is pictured entertaining members of the Gerry Senior Citizens during a past meeting. Many local senior groups are beginning to gather again after taking a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit most populations across the globe very hard, but for certain groups of people it has been a lot harder.

Particularly for senior citizens — including those who live in Chautauqua County — the pandemic has meant not being able to leave the house much or to socialize with people and friends. Before the pandemic, one of the most common ways for senior citizens to interact was through senior citizen groups. These groups would meet regularly and sometimes have special events and dinners or sometimes just talk and play cards.

The Mayville Senior Citizens group last met on March 5, 2020. Like many other groups across the county, they were not able to meet or see each other in over a year, but as the pandemic begins to slow, and with many members of the group now vaccinated, the Mayville Senior Citizens are working to meet again.

“As most of us have been vaccinated we have scheduled a meeting for Thursday, July 15, at noon at the VFW in Mayville,” said Janet Loomis, Mayville Senior Citizens president. “Usually we each bring a dish to pass, have a meeting and then a speaker or entertainment. … Also, for the first meeting, instead of a speaker, we have decided it might be nice to just talk to each other because it has been so long.”

Wendie Raynor, secretary of the Harmony Senior Citizens group, said the pandemic has been particularly hard on seniors because many have been unable to see one another for months, though some were able to stay in contact over the phone.

“It is mentally important for seniors to get out and stay active,” Raynor said. “Too much alone time is not good.”

Raynor added that the Harmony Senior Citizens did not meet from April 2020 until May 2021.

“Our group is active and plays a great role in our members’ lives,” Raynor said. “Everyone was happy to be together again.”

The secretary of the North Harmony Senior Citizens, Barbara Cheney, agreed that socialization is something that is very important for senior citizens who take part in their local groups. The North Harmony Senior Citizens did not meet from February 2020 to May 2021.

“Socializing and these meetings are very important for our members, and we just couldn’t do it,” Cheney said.

Cheney added that while some members of the group did stay in contact over the course of the pandemic, it was mainly in the individual friend groups who met at each other’s houses when able. Also, as Cheney noted, the North Harmony Senior Citizens group is very important to the lives of their active members.

“We have some members who like to go to Florida and only come to meetings every six months,” Cheney said. “Of course, they’re always welcome when they do.”

The North Harmony Senior Citizens also meet up at the local senior center to play cards together, something they have not been able to do during the pandemic but are starting to do again.

“We’re really looking forward to that,” Cheney said. “A lot of people’s physical well-being depends on socialization and being able to get out of the house, and we’re looking forward to being able to get back to that again.”

For the Gerry Senior Citizens, not being able to meet has been hard, due to the lack of being able to be connected and informed on all of the members’ lives like before.

“The pandemic has been very hard,” said Ann Hellman, Gerry Senior Citizens president. “We need to be able to socialize and we haven’t been able to do it. We need to be able to be together and communicate and have a good time, and that’s really what we have been missing during this pandemic.”

As president, Hellman described how she called some members during the holiday and tries to keep in touch with as many members as she can, especially those who have been sick. Additionally, Hellman said the ability to socialize is a big part of the lives of most senior citizens, and many have been alone and cooped up in their houses for over a year, especially those no longer able to drive.

“Sometimes these people even miss phone calls,” Hellman said. “They get excited to just hear another voice on the other end of the phone. Senior citizens often need to be in touch with other people and sometimes need help from other people. They just need to know that there’s still people out there who think of them.”

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