The Cape May County Division of Aging and Disability Services operates four countywide senior centers located in Lower Cape, North Wildwood, Ocean City, and Upper Township, with a daily pre-COVID 19 total average of 100-150 participants. In March 2020 all four senior center doors were temporarily closed to protect participants due to the spread of COVID-19. After nearly 11 months, the doors remain closed to participants, and currently, there is no immediate time frame for their re-opening.
“The population that attends the senior centers is the population most at risk for serious complications if they contract COVID-19. There was no way that we were putting our residents in danger then, and that hasn't changed today”, said Jeffrey Pierson, County Commissioner and liaison of Health and Human Services.
During the closure of the senior centers, the Staff is providing services to the participants several in several different ways. Grab and Go meals; a drive-thru meal pickup, is available at two of the senior centers and open to regular senior center participants that are able to drive to the area centers. Meal delivery is also available to participants who do not drive and relied on Fare Free Transportation to get to and from the centers.
Additionally, the Staff conducts weekly assurance calls, and activity bags have been delivered during the pandemic. The staff of the Division of Aging and Disability Services is continually working on ways to keep senior center participants connected as much as possible during this trying time.
“Mary Dozier, our Division Director of Aging and Disability Services has been participating in a workgroup with other County and State Aging professionals to develop guidelines that will be presented to the NJ State Department of Health to re-open congregate nutrition centers statewide. Our congregate nutrition and senior center socialization go hand-in-hand. The reopening of the senior centers with the congregate nutrition is not just a local decision.”, said Commissioner Jeffrey Pierson.
When the senior centers do reopen it is likely that the following mitigation protocols will be in place: social distancing, reduced daily census, utilization of outdoor spaces whenever practicable, masks, increased sanitizing processes, and other mandates and restrictions set by the State for the safe reopening of the centers.
“We understand the importance of socialization to our seniors and are committed to re-opening our senior centers in a controlled manner with the support of our local and state health partners. The health of our seniors is our priority.”, added Commissioner Pierson.
Any participant who attended one of the four senior centers and is interested in any of the services identified above; please call the Cape May County Division of Aging and Disability Services at (609) 886-2784.