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Op-ed: Please, fully open senior centers

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz represents District 29. (Photo courtesy of Koslowitz' office)

Now that a large percentage of our senior citizens have been vaccinated, it is time to fully reopen the senior centers in our community.

The safety of our elderly residents is of course vital, which is why these centers have been closed for the past 16 months of the pandemic, but our neighborhoods are miraculously rejuvenating. A short stroll on Austin Street, for instance, or along Metropolitan Avenue will show that many of our restaurants are operating at near full capacity; most stores are serving all of their customers; and our parks are brimming with people on a sunny day.

Thanks to everyone’s great efforts to maintain social distancing measures and heed safety protocols, this great community — and our city, as a whole — is coming back to life at last.

Yet a significant amount of our senior citizens still lack the camaraderie and togetherness that their senior centers provide when completely open.

While the distribution of grab-and-go meals, for example, is certainly beneficial, it’s simply not enough as a means of wholly reintegrating into the “new normal” the elderly women and men amongst us.

These people have worked hard all their lives, and now that they are in their golden years, the very least that we can do is to lift them from the coronavirus’s hard solitude and offer them the place that gives them joy and a sense of friendship, even family.

Senior centers, after all, aren’t just spaces where older individuals can have a hot meal but also where they can talk with their friends and neighbors, participate in exercise classes, partake in nutritional programming, have civic discussions and engage in the myriad other essential activities that can’t be fully enjoyed virtually.

Simply yet vitally, our older residents need to just be in each other’s presence. 

During my decades of public service, I have always experienced great joy when visiting our senior centers. So let’s finally open these beloved centers once again and revel in the happiness that will surely follow.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz represents District 29, which includes Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill.

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