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Not Forgotten: Cadillac Senior Center brings lunch, line dancing to members coming out of quarantine

Noelle Riley

Our elderly population is finally starting to engage in togetherness after months of isolation due to the coronavirus.

Last week, members of the Senior Center in Cadillac were thrilled to laugh, have lunch and even line dance again.

Although they’re not confined to assisted living or nursing home facilities, many of their friends are.

They meet at the open air farmers market building that’s covered and screened in. It also has heaters.

The cold, wet weather didn’t stop them from visiting. They longed for it, and it was the first lunch hosted by the Cadillac Senior Center in more than a year. 

For Eva Barns it was a big deal. 

“This is the first I’ve been out since a year ago in March,” she said.

She chatted with friends, including Rose and Charlie Morris. 

They didn’t experience extreme isolation like those in nursing homes, but they saw how it affected Charlie’s twin brother Floyd.

His wife broke her hip during the pandemic and after surgery was sent to a nursing home.

No one could visit her, but Rose says that didn’t stop Floyd. 

“So what he did was borrow a hunting blind, which is kinda funny,” she said. “He set it up outside of the window where she was at the assisted living place, and he brought a little heater, and he stayed out there all day, talking through the window.”

It was a traumatic time for him, she said.

“He would cry and cry. This is a 70 year old man. He’s crying like a baby. You know, because he can’t hold her, comfort her, you know, get her water or anything,” Rose said. 

Floyd’s wife is home now, and for a while afterwards, while the facility was still in lockdown, he and his twin Charlie would ride their bikes every day to Samaritas Senior Living in Cadillac. 

They couldn’t go inside, so Charlie said they would ride past the windows, waving at the residents. 

“It was exciting to see them, especially when you rode your bike all along Samaritas, and all of the sudden they started standing at the window and waving to you, and telling you to come on up to the window,” he said

So they did, and Charlie and Floyd would talk to them through the glass. Many of the residents didn’t understand the lockdown and begged them to come in. 

“We kept on telling all of them we couldn’t come in, because the nurses weren't allowed to let us in, and so it just bothered the heck out of them then it’d bother us,” he said. “We told them we’d see them later and we’d jump on our bikes and they’d say ‘I love ya!’”

Prior to the pandemic, many of the 300 members of the Cadillac Senior Center would go in and play bingo and cards with residents at the facility. 

For the time being, they’re grateful for the time they are given through senior center activities. 

After lunch, line dancing started. Eighteen people showed up for the event taught by Bonnie Hawkins.

She was all smiles to be out, teaching her first line dancing class in over a year. 

Bonnie lost a friend who was in a nursing home during lockdown. 

Before she passed away in January to pancreatic cancer, Bonnie’s friend was completely dumbfounded by the lockdown.

“Well she couldn’t understand why nobody could come and see her. She had dementia. It was hard for her. She’d say, ‘I can’t get out.” And she liked to go. She couldn’t come out and people couldn’t come to see her,” she said. 

Luckily, Bonnie says her friend wasn’t alone before she died. 

“The last couple days of her life, they let a couple of us in at a time. Other than that, no. They kept them shut in their rooms mostly,” she said. 

Bonnie misses her friend. But gratitude flows through her being a member of the senior center and being around other friends again.

She started the class. They laughed, smiled and cheered about being together again.

Diane Patterson runs the Cadillac Senior Center. She tries to focus on what the elderly population needs to thrive… mentally and physically.

“They just know that they need to stay positive. I really encourage people to walk, whatever their capability is, just to keep moving,” she said. 

She also reminds people to stay in touch with elderly loved ones so they are Not Forgotten.

Not Forgotten music composed by Andy Middlemiss.

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