NEW YORK — It’s been more than a year since anyone has sat down for a meal inside the dining room at the Grace Agard Harewood Neighborhood Senior Center in Fort Greene. The pandemic forced the center to close its doors last March.
The staff has been working overtime to keep the homebound seniors connected over Zoom.
“We provide wonderful virtual programming, but you can’t send the food over the phone,” said Claudette Macey, the CEO and executive director of Fort Green Council Inc., which operates 13 senior centers in Brooklyn.
But on Monday, the Department for the Aging (DFTA), which oversees the city’s senior centers, gave the operators the green light to begin the first phase of reopening. While seniors will not be allowed back inside yet, the centers will provide grab-and-go meals.
Macey said the seniors are eagerly awaiting their chance to return.
“Just to come pick up a meal safely, see their friends, will be wonderful. They’ll get some fresh air, they’ll get to come back out and feel a sense of normalcy coming back,” said Macey.
Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said the centers will also help schedule vaccinations for seniors who have not had the opportunity to get jabbed yet.
“We will look at who hasn’t been vaccinated and mark arrangements with the Department of Health to get as many older adults vaccinated. Because, as you know, that is all a pathway to reopening,” said Cortés-Vázquez.
It’s not clear when senior centers will fully reopen for indoor activities.
DFTA advises seniors to call their local center to see when they plan to start serving meals-to-go. The agency said centers can start providing that service as soon as Monday May 10.