Even though the Easton Senior Center is closed until April 1, the town’s seniors know they are not alone, thanks to Center Director Valerie Buckley.
Early last week, as health experts warned that the elderly and those with long-term health problems are a high-risk group for the coronavirus, Buckley mobilized a team of dozens of volunteers.
They got on the phone and called more than 1,300 Easton households with people between the ages of 60 to 100.
Buckley’s message for the seniors was you don’t have to avoid the coronavirus alone.
“Our message was to stay in place. Don’t go out. Call the center if you need someone to make a run to the grocery store or pharmacy,” Buckley said.
The phone call was reassuring to many seniors who are homebound, physically and mentally challenged and it highlighted the benefits of living in a small town.
While the center is closed, Buckley, 80, is also home, taking calls from seniors. A skeleton crew of volunteers is taking calls and handle non emergencies. Seniors can call 203-2681145 for assistance. Planned trips have been cancelled.She has a team of 45 Easton volunteers including some from Trumbull and Monroe, who are ready to help when any senior needs it.
Planned trips and groups shopping trips with one of the center’s two van drivers are cancelled. Van drivers will make both grocery and pharmacy runs.Transportation is available only for critical services such as Dialysis.
Herbie Torres, a van driver, said it breaks his heart that he can no longer take groups of seniors to the grocery store and then stop for a hot dog or a pizza slice. “I miss them. They are part of me,” he said.
Buckley knows it will be hard for seniors who rely on the center for the social activities that enhance their lives — but also knows it had to close.
“In order for the system to work, the best thing to do is to follow the instructions to stay home.” Buckley said.
Anne Fiyalka, 99, was among the volunteers who made the calls.
She knows isolation is the hardest part of being forced to stay at home. An active member of the senior center, she would go there three or four times a week and bowl in Fairfield with the Easton Senior Bowlers League.
“I’m keeping myself busy, playing scrabble on the computer, doing crossword puzzles, and cleaning out a few drawers,” she said.
Buckley is optimistic the crisis will pass. She lived through the smallpox outbreak in the early 1960s while teaching college in Northern England. And she’s no stranger to crisis management as a member of the town’s emergency team. The senior center has been Ground Zero during natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and crippling winter snowstorms, when it doubles as a warming center.
But the coronavirus feels different, said Buckley.
“There isn’t an SUV waiting outside the center to take us home during a snowstorm,” she said.
Yet, her message to seniors is hope-filled.
“Grow old along with me, the best is yet is to be,” Buckley said.
Easton senior Dolly Curtis took the photo of cheerful daffodils growing right outside her window. She doesn’t even have to leave home to see their radiant beauty. — Dolly Curtis Photo