Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living
Laura Newland, director, DC Office of Aging and Community Living

Are you feeling that change in the air? The days are warmer and longer, and this year, vaccinations mean that spring brought us more than just a change in the temperature! Getting vaccinated means that we can hug loved ones, feel comfortable in public spaces, and resume at least some of our “normal” routines, which includes DACL in-person activities.

The past fourteen months have only confirmed what we already knew—loneliness and isolation cause negative health, social, and emotional outcomes for all of us but can be particularly damaging for seniors. But even with the easing of social distancing requirements, many of us remain alone.

That’s why DACL is working hard to ensure that every senior who wants to resume in-person activities can do so safely, from working out to chilling out over coffee. Some of our programs, like Adult Protective Services and Safe at Home, have continued to operate during the public health emergency, and over the past several months, our adult day health programs opened in-person activities to help support our caregivers providing care to those with Alzheimer’s or other related dementias. In June, our Senior Wellness Centers, Vida Senior Center, and the Asian Pacific Islander Senior Center will all reopen. Now, things might look different when we reopen—we’ll have to limit participation in some activities, and we’re requiring masks and social distancing for now, but we’re all so excited to welcome you back in person!

June is also PRIDE month, so we’re planning exciting PRIDE month activities with a focus on creating safer and more welcoming spaces for our LGBTQ+ seniors. I know that the public health emergency isn’t the only reason seniors may feel isolated and as we open back up, I want to ask each of you to help me make sure every senior feels welcome in all our spaces. Introduce yourself to someone new or maybe have a conversation with someone you’ve seen around but haven’t talked to before. Everyone, no matter what we look like, how we identify, who we love, wants to feel welcome and included. As we think about how we can build back better than before, let’s commit to being better to each other!

If you’ve discovered you prefer to work out at home with online classes, or if you’re not quite ready to participate in person, we’ve still got you covered. The silver lining from this past year has been seeing how popular virtual programming has been, and we’ll continue to offer a great selection of online classes and activities. And remember, the sooner we all get vaccinated, the sooner we can all be together!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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