Located in the heart of the West Seattle Junction lies the Senior Center of West Seattle. Members are longing for the day when the senior center returns to normal, but with COVID-19 health and safety regulations in place, that day may have to wait.
Just four days after the appointment of the senior center’s new Executive Director, Amy Lee Derenthal, the team at the Senior Center of West Seattle made the difficult decision to close the facility on March 5th, for the sake of the health of its members. On June 29th, the senior center had their modified reopening, and they are currently providing limited programming, while monitoring that the few individuals that do come are wearing masks and are temperature checked. The majority of members are continuing to stay at home and for those that need it, meals, prescription delivery, and social worker support or available.
Despite early challenges, the senior center continues to pivot their services to best serve their community members. It takes a well-oiled team to coordinate deliveries, manage people, and communicate updates. Derenthal continues to state, “We pivoted immediately to providing essential services to seniors in their homes and had to figure things out pretty quickly…. it was [about] making adjustments and changes, while not being sure how long we would be closed…. Now, we’re in our ‘new normal’ and everyone is comfortable with their roles… “
One of those roles in the “new normal” is making sure that the senior center is thoroughly clean and sanitized. For Community Dining Chef, Francisco Briseno, this means limiting the number of helping hands in the kitchen and deep cleaning and disinfecting cooking utensils and surfaces before meal prep work begins. Briseno states, “…having a crew of four everyday to having one volunteer a day… big changes.”
Stop ‘N Shop Thrift Store Manager, Aylene Kandappu, echoes these changes stating, “I modified the layout of the store, did a thorough cleaning and set up a new system in accordance with governmental regulations…. We also have shorter hours [and] make sure that we are able to work far apart and we have adequate cleaning stations.”
As for the senior center’s limited programming, Derenthal states, “Now that we’re open, I can say the people who are comfortable coming to our programming are really happy to be back. Many of them live alone and the opportunity to come to a safe place, to see friends and have community is very much appreciated. Also, with the libraries closed, the people who needed internet access and a computer lab are also very happy. Of course, there are more programs people want to have us start up again that just aren’t safe and that includes dancing, exercising and card playing in particular.”
While we wait for clearer skies and a vaccine ahead, the Senior Center of West Seattle isn’t sitting back. They’re spinning this situation into an opportunity to revamp their programming and give the senior center a new, fresh interior that optimizes the space they have for the community they serve. Derenthal envisions the senior center becoming a place for all generations to come together to create lasting friendships and positive change.