The Human Services Department has reopened its Senior Centers on all three islands for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Commissioner Kimberley Causey Gomez announced on Monday.
All three centers were temporarily closed during the pandemic for the health and safety of the territory’s seniors, Causey Gomez said. Run by the Division of Senior Citizens Affairs, Socio-Recreation Program, they offer outlets for seniors to enjoy get-togethers, meals, recreation, and cultural activities.
“Due to the restrictions being lifted in the territory, all locations have begun providing socio-recreation activities to our elderly Virgin Islanders,” Causey Gomez said in a press release announcing the openings.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has eased many of the territory’s COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers and hospitalizations have subsided. As of Monday, there were 51 cases territorywide.
The STRIVE Center at the Knud Hansen Complex on St. Thomas reopened on March 22 with a total of 33 participants; the Adrian Center on St. John reopened on March 29, with 28 seniors in attendance; and the St. Croix Richmond Center reopened on April 1 with 75 participants at its temporary site, the Christiansted Lagoon Pavilion.
Activities at all three centers featured lively music and dance, said Causey Gomez. Cultural dancers and a moko jumbie performance, sponsored by the Tourism Department, kicked off the St. Thomas STRIVE Center event with an homage to the territory’s cultural heritage.
The seniors also enjoyed live entertainment by a Soca band, local foods, and even a fraco truck with sweet treats. The Health Department’s Mobile Health Van also was on hand at both the STRIVE and Adrian Senior Center events to provide free COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and booster shots.
The St. John center reopened with a blessing of the newly reconstructed V.I. Housing Authority George Simmonds Terrace Community Center. The senior center is housed in the facility in Estate Adrian on St. John. Participants there were treated to a live jazz band and heart-felt hymns sung by everyone. A tai chi Instructor rounded out the day with the Adrian seniors resuming their body stretches and breathing routines.
The St. Croix Richmond Senior Center activities started with music and dancing to the sounds of a live DJ, with the department’s Senior Vans transporting seniors from across St. Croix to the beautiful Christiansted Lagoon Pavilion for a day of tasty local food and drinks that included souse and potato salad and a variety of sweet treats.
“The seniors were indeed extremely happy to be reunited, and they sang, talked, and danced throughout the day,” Causey Gomez said in the press release.
Socio-recreation plays a key role in the well-being of older adults and in enhancing their quality of life, the release stated. For seniors, as for people of all ages, involvement in such activities can satisfy a variety of needs. Benefits include increased health and fitness, opportunities for socializing that enhance mental and emotional well-being, using skills and talents developed throughout a lifetime, and learning new skills. The senior population is quite varied, with a diversity of interests, strengths, and abilities, the release noted.
“I applaud and give thanks to the committed DHS Division of Senior Citizens Affairs staff, who diligently worked to stay connected with their seniors throughout the temporary closure of the Senior Centers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and have now successfully and safely opened all centers. They are our heroes!” said Causey Gomez.