On a normal, pre-pandemic Thursday afternoon, local seniors would have gathered in Moscow’s 1912 Center to eat lunch and spend time with fellow community members.

The popular biweekly luncheon, however, was changed to be a grab-and-go meal operation last spring, and that change is just one of the many adaptations local seniors have had to make in response to the pandemic.

For many, this means more time spent alone.

The risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is highest in aging adults, and many seniors have chosen to isolate themselves, some foregoing unnecessary human interaction altogether.

Many looked forward to senior lunches in Moscow and Pullman because they provided a great opportunity to socialize and connect with friends — both new and old — so the absence of the lunches has left gaps in weekly schedules.

Bill Terrio, president of the Moscow Friendly Neighbors senior group for nine years, said he and his meal team have been working hard to support the senior community because the lunch program is important to a lot of people, including himself.

“When I moved here, my sister brought me down here for lunch,” he said as he organized preparation of food in the 1912 Center kitchen for the grab-and-go and delivery meal program on Thursday. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Terrio said his team has been doing what it can to help people feel connected, despite being stuck at home most of the day.

“When we deliver, we check up on people to make sure they’re OK,” he said.

Once the COVID-19 situation has passed, normal operations will return for congregate meals and other senior activities in Moscow and Pullman.

Jolie Haug, a Colfax resident and outgoing co-president of the Pullman Senior Citizens Association, said right now it’s more important than ever to reach out to elderly friends and loved ones who may be feeling lonely or cut off from the rest of the world.

“I have been calling people who live in Pullman Regency and Bishop Place, and some have been under total lockdown. They can’t even meet in the hall and visit with one another,” she said. “It does help to let them know that you’re thinking of them. ... They may be isolated, but they’re not forgotten.”

One of those friends is Mary Jo Haas, an independent living resident of Bishop Place. She said she hasn’t been allowed to have anybody in her apartment, even fellow Bishop residents, and it’s been difficult. To help pass the time, she’s been spending a lot of time talking on the phone with friends and family who live all over the country.

Haas said some activities at Bishop Place are slowly beginning to open up with plenty of safety precautions in place.

“They’ve started showing one episode each week of ‘Downton Abbey,’ which a lot of us here have watched and really enjoy,” she said.

Weekly exercise classes have resumed for Bishop Place residents, and Haas also said she’s heard word that the center’s pool will reopen soon, a development that will come as a welcome relief to many residents who enjoy swimming and water aerobics.

Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, Haas said one upside has been how it’s caused people to connect with each other more and step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

“We’re a big country and there are a lot of us, so we all have to be together in every way now,” she said. “I think Americans are generally so busy keeping up with what they have to do for work and their families, and now they are taking time to appreciate loved ones more.”

Ellen Dennis can be reached at (208) 883-4632 or by email at briefs@dnews.com.

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