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The City Journals

Dancing, dining and learning are back at the senior center

Jun 28, 2021 10:48AM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

The “Time” Steppers, a senior tap and jazz dancing troupe practices at the Midvale Senior Center in May. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

In-person programs and dining at the Midvale Senior Center are back. 

COVID-19 is the most dangerous for individuals over 65, so it makes sense that the Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services has been cautious about restoring programming at the senior centers. 

But with COVID-19 cases going down and immunization rates going up, activities have slowly been coming back to the center located at 7550 S. Main St. Access to the computers, individual fitness equipment, billiards tables, pickleball courts and sit-down dining in the cafeteria resumed on April 19. In-person classes started back up on May 3.

“We’ve had quite a few people coming in,” said Loriann Warner, manager of the center. “The exercise rooms and computers are our most busy areas.”

Every precaution is being taken to keep staff and seniors safe. Anyone who enters the building must be registered for a specific activity and is required to wear a mask at all times except when actively eating, drinking or exercising. Social distancing inside the building is encouraged.

Warner recommends calling ahead to make reservations. Online registration is also an option when signing up for group classes.

One group that’s back in full force is the “Time” Steppers, a senior tap and jazz dancing troupe that formed in 2009. The dancers, who range in age from their 50s to 80s, know over 100 different numbers and design and make their own costumes. Prior to the pandemic, the Steppers were performing more than 50 shows a year at senior residences, schools and private parties. The group is back to practicing three times a week at the senior center and is currently working on their newest program, a “Welcome Back 2021” jazz show. 

For seniors looking for less theatrical ways to stay active, tai chi and yoga classes have returned, as well as Zumba Gold and line dancing.

“A lot of them have missed the exercising,” Warner said. “They said at home it’s just not as fun because you don’t have that social aspect.” 

Use of the exercise room is scheduled in one hour increments, allowing 45 minutes for exercise and 15 minutes for staff to clean the equipment. 

The book club, bingo and social hours started back up in June, and new arts and culture classes include creative writing, paper folding and learning to grow your own ornamental Bonsai tree.

“The volunteer who taught photography in 2019 will be teaching photography with cell phones,” Warner said. “So many people have cell phones with new camera features, so we’ll be helping them to learn that.”

To help with social distancing, the daily sit-down lunch is divided into two sessions, one at 11:30 a.m. and the other at 12:30 p.m. 

The salmon lunch offered the Friday before Mother’s Day was a big draw, more than doubling the 20 or so people who had begun dining in the cafeteria. A special lunch is also planned for Friday, June 18 in recognition of Father’s Day. 

For those not ready to eat in a restaurant setting, pre-packaged meals to go can be picked up inside the center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. All meals are free, with a suggested donation of $4. 

Virtual programming will also continue in several different formats and cover topics like healthy eating and dealing with chronic pain as well as live and pre-recorded exercise classes.

“One silver lining during the past year was the development of online programming,” Warner said. “It was always something they talked about, and with the pandemic the need became so great. The goal was for seniors to have something new to do without having to leave their homes. We always have a segment of the population unable to get out of their homes, so it’s a good resource for them.”

Transportation to and from the center is still in the process of being reestablished by Midvale City and the senior center will continue to slowly release restrictions. Updates and class schedules can be found at the center’s website: slco.org/midvale-senior-center/

“We’re just figuring out how you deal with what was going on last year,” Warner said. “How do you start feeling comfortable again?”