By Eric Harrold
EDGEMONT – For a number of seniors living in Edgemont, going to the Senior Center for lunch is a part of their daily routine during the week. Many of them are left frustrated, uncertain as everyone else is as to when the ‘social distancing’ measures and facilities closures will be lifted.
“I’m really missing not going to the center,” laments Beverly Putnam. “My mom became a big fan of the senior center after suffering a car accident that cost her husband his life. She was active with the Edgemont Senior Center for about a dozen years. It helped Mom live longer and it helped her mind stay sharp by interacting with others.”
Putnam appears to be deriving similar benefits from regular attendance at the Senior Center, which is only a couple of blocks from her residence. Her frustration with its current closure is obvious. “It’s hard to be away from familiar people and the conversation that it provides.”
“The Senior Center allows you to meet new people and get to know people who you didn’t live close to earlier in life and so you didn’t have a prior association with them.”
In addition to being cut off from the Senior Center, Putnam is further frustrated by the prospect of cancellation of events scheduled for this summer, such as the All Class Reunion slated to take place the week of the County Fair in August. “That would be awful,” she says. “I listen to the news all the time and there’s all this talk of places and businesses like up in Custer that are closing down.”
Her daughter recently asked her if she ever remembered going through anything like this as a child, to which Putnam responded, “Yeah, the big polio scare!”
Another face you’ll encounter on a daily basis at the Senior Center is that of Henrietta Ritzman. Ritzman says she has been going to the Center for over 30 years, and these days you’ll find her making sure that each table has a pot of coffee. She also helps tally the meal requests and records daily attendance for lunch.
“This is so terrible. My kids were just here before heading to Hot Springs for groceries. I’m not used to being tied down. I wonder how long all of this is going to last?” lamented Ritzman.
“My son is wearing a mask and gloves to the grocery store. He has already brought so much food that I haven’t been eating meals from the center. Tomorrow they’re going to take me out of here for a change.”
“It makes you stir-crazy. I get up every five minutes just to walk around,” she continued.
While most folks that visit the center with regularity share the fretful response of Putnam and Ritzman, there is one who claims to be taking things in stride.
Clyde Gullickson tries to have a different focus. He was seemingly excited about the arrival of his new walker and is finding things to occupy his time. “I got plenty of things to do at home,” Gullickson says.
Frank Gregg, Senior Center Director, says he is receiving feedback from these and other seniors who are essentially rendered “shut-ins” due to the social distancing precautions and recommendations from their doctors and other health professionals.
“From what I’m hearing, the worst part of this thing for them is the isolation itself,” says Gregg. “They’re frustrated and don’t feel as if they have any social life left.”
Gregg wants everyone in the community that might have concerns about meal deliveries being made to their senior relatives that the meals program is adhering to strict guidelines that are changing through time as the pandemic spreads throughout the country.
“We’re taking every precaution with the meals program to protect recipients, volunteers, and staff,” he said. “Recipients should remember that delivery people are required to have no direct contact with meals recipients under the present restrictions. When the recipients pay for deliveries, they are asked to place the funds in an envelope and affix the envelope to the door for the delivery person to pick up.”