Kingsport Senior Center reopens as vaccinations rise and COVID-19 cases fall

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Largely closed since last March, the Kingsport Senior Center reopened Monday with limited capacity and COVID-19 safety measures still in place.

The Senior Center reopened for a brief period of time in the fall of 2020, but closed again as COVID-19 case numbers rose. Monday was a significant day as many members, now vaccinated, returned for the first time since last year.

Kingsport Senior Center member Carolyn Carter is back to doing aerobics in a familiar place with familiar faces.

“We were all excited today when we returned. Really, it’s a pretty close class. The social interaction is just as good as the exercise,” said Carter.

An aerobics class at the Senior Center

For many members, staff, and volunteers, the reopening is somewhat of a reunion.

“People are really excited to get back to see other people. Isolation is really a problem with seniors at home,” said Shirley Buchanan, the Center’s director.

To limit capacity, senior members are allowed to come on certain days of the week depending on whether they have an odd or even birth year. On Mondays and Wednesdays, members who were born in an even year can use the facilities. Members born in an odd year can use the facilities on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The center is currently closed Fridays for cleaning.

You’ll still see masks and social distancing used, and have your temperature taken at the door. But now there’s a new layer of security giving members confidence.

“Almost all of the people that I spoke with today have had their second vaccination. So they’re very excited to get back, follow the rules, and have some fun,” said Buchanan.

The Center has offered several activities virtually amid the pandemic and will continue to do so for those still in isolation. But for some in-person activities, like woodworking, Monday was the first time since last March the shop could be open.

Throughout the Senior Center, there’s an optimism that normalcy will gradually return. They’re even planning trips for members again, including one to Ireland for March of 2022.

Having received both vaccine doses, senior center member Linda Ford says she feels safer. As soon as doors opened at 8 a.m., she was back in the ceramics room to work on her pottery skills.

“For your mental health, it’s very good, whether you’re doing pottery or whatever. Just to be around people instead of sitting at home by yourself,” said Ford.

The Senior Center main site is currently open from Monday to Thursday until 3:30 p.m. Buchanan said they plan to extend those hours in the coming months, and offer full programming again by May or mid-summer.

The Lynn View branch site of the Senior Center will reopen on Monday, March 15. Hours will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kingsport began a rolling reopening of several leisure services on Monday. More information can be found here.

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