It is well-known that those most susceptible to COVID-19 are seniors and those with underlying health conditions. With this in mind, Governor Jay Inslee issued rules to help protect those living in nursing homes and senior living facilities. The city of Auburn also closed the Senior Center. These both were done at the start of March.
The Auburn Senior Center offers the community a variety of resources and activities. Since its March closure, those who frequented the center and utilized its services have been lacking that connection.
One way the Senior Center has worked to continue serving the community is by maintaining lunch service. Partnering with Hyde Shuttle, delivered lunches are available to people age 60 and over, living within the city of Auburn.
Providing lunches is important, but the Senior Center staff knew more needed to be done.
“One of the Senior Center’s main focus has always been to provide socialization to older adults,” explained Radine Lozier, Senior Center Manager. “Social isolation is proven to be detrimental to the health of seniors. With Covid-19, everything we work so hard to prevent is now more difficult than ever.”
Drive-by parades for birthdays and graduations have become a popular way to celebrate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing teachers parade also for their students, the Senior Center decided to throw a parade for their seniors. “We are trying to be very creative and find new ways to engage our seniors. We thought, ‘we miss our seniors, and they miss us, so let’s do it!’,” said Lozier.
To help plan the route for the May 5th parade, participants were asked if they wanted the parade through their neighborhood. Several senior housing and mobile home parks were also included. Vans, trucks, and cars were covered with balloons, streamers, and messages of love and encouragement for the parade. Joining the parade was an Auburn Police cruiser and Mayor Nancy Backus.
“I love the opportunity to get out and share a smile with our community,” said Backus. “At times like these, our seniors can feel so isolated, and I’m very proud of the Senior Center team that put this parade together. Auburn takes care of our own, and this is just another great example of that truth!”
Smiling faces awaited the parade as they wove through the city. Some held up signs, many shouted “thank you,” “I miss you,” and “I love you.” The bonds of the seniors and the staff were clear with each stop they passed.
“We are missing our seniors, just as much as they are missing us. [Tuesday] filled my heart with so much love and joy. Knowing that our seniors are safe, healthy, and wanting to connect is so encouraging,” shared Senior Center recreation specialist, Megan Mummert. “It reinforces that we are doing the right thing by remaining closed, to keep them safe. This whole experience has forced us to think outside of the box, reach out to seniors who need us more than ever, and view programming for them in a new light.”
Reflecting on the parade, Lozier shared a more profound lesson she saw, “the most remarkable turnout was at The Reserve Senior Apartments. It was incredible. People were yelling and waving from their balconies. They had signs and cheered from the street as well. Some were in tears. The most rewarding part is up until April 10, very few of The Reserve residents even knew the Senior Center existed. Our “outreach” dollars provided by the King County Senior Levy are proving to be beneficial in many ways.”
“Out of a horrible situation, we have been given the opportunity to reach out to the most isolated in our community,” continued Lozier. “[To] let them know that the Senior Center is here, and we can’t wait until we reopen so they can all see what they have been missing.”