“I was waiting for it!”: Older Adult Centers Reopen with Dancing and BBQ

At the grand reopening of our Lincoln Square Older Adult Center, a DJ spun tunes ranging from Golden Oldies to contemporary bachata. The large dining room was filling up in advance of lunchtime, and a handful of members got up to dance.

“I’m very happy,” said Blanca Padilla, sporting a sparkly headband and numerous pieces of jewelry that she made in the center’s jewelry class.

“All my friends here—that’s the main thing I’ve missed,” Padilla said. “Also Zumba and Latin Dance. I love to dance every day!”

Our Older Adult Centers shut down in-person activities in Spring 2020, as COVID-19 swept through the city with frightening force. Since then the staff at our centers have done what they could to offer support, moving their online activities and checking in with residents regularly by phone. But members say nothing can really replace going to the center and seeing your friends in person.

“I was waiting for it!” exclaimed Dinorah Hernandez. “I’m so tired of being in my apartment.”

At our center on Columbus Avenue, the theme from “Welcome Back Kotter” played as members lined up for a celebratory meal of barbecue with corn, coleslaw and vegetables. Jules LaFontant said he usually came two or three times a week for piano lessons, exercise classes and meals. “You get to talk to your friends and play dominoes,” he added. 

Milagros Lopez has been coming to this Older Adult Center for decades. She’s participated in lots of projects over the years to build attendance and get members more engaged. “I was able to involve people to become closer to each other and help each other,” she said. “I missed that.”

How does it feel to be back after so many months? Lopez’s answer was succinct: “Wonderful.”