OLEAN – Sixteen months after closing due to COVID-19, Cattaraugus County’s senior wellness and nutrition locations are reopening.
Six of the 10 dining options, including the Olean Senior Center at the John J. Ash Community Center, 112 N. Barry St., opened on Monday and three of the remaining are expected to reopen next Monday, Cathy Mackay, Department of Aging said Director on Thursday.
“We surveyed the seniors who were regularly visiting restaurants before the pandemic to ask if they wanted to come back,” Mackay said. “Many said they wanted to come back. You missed your lunchtime friends. “
The Department of Aging decided to wait until after Memorial Day and school close to see if there was a spike in COVID-19 cases. For much of the last month, the positivity rate was below 1% and the rate was low in western New York and across the state.
Safety practices in accordance with CDC guidelines will be in place at all locations for people who wish to return to the restaurants and wellness sites, stressed Mackay. Anyone who is not vaccinated is encouraged to follow CDC recommendations, including wearing masks.
When the wellness and dining facilities were abruptly closed in mid-March 2020 to protect vulnerable seniors and others from COVID-19, they were included in the nationwide program “Meals on Wheels”. Since most of the Meals on Wheels volunteers were seniors, county workers from various departments including Aging and Public Works came to deliver the meals.
Additionally, nutrition and other aging workers fulfilled requests for food and personal products from elderly residents who either couldn’t or didn’t want to go out during the pandemic.
“We wanted to reopen as soon as possible,” said Mackay. “As soon as it was safe and people felt comfortable.”
In addition to Olean, restaurants and spas reopened in Portville, Randolph, Delevan, Franklinville, and Gowanda on Monday. The Allegany / Limestone, South Dayton and West Valley locations will reopen next Monday. A new location in Cattaraugus / Little Valley at the Cattaraugus Ambulance Service will open on July 26th.
The senior dining and wellness sites served about 150 meals a day for the first four days of the limited reopening, according to nutrition director Kim Connell. Last year around 1,200 meals were prepared and delivered every day. “We have a great staff. Everyone came together and we got through it. We did what we had to do for the seniors. “
Meals, which are delivered to your home and eaten on site, are prepared in the kitchen of the Pines Healthcare and Rehabilitation Campus of the county in Machias. In addition to daily meals, groceries were sent out to the elderly and pilot restaurant programs with new funding were introduced. At the restaurants, not only did the seniors get a take away meal or dinner at a restaurant, but the restaurants got some highly valued stores as well – especially during the time they were closed due to COVID-19.
Connell said restaurants would encourage people who weren’t vaccinated to wear a mask. Those who are vaccinated can wear a mask if they wish, but this is not mandatory. The staff will help people schedule a vaccination appointment if they wish, including a home vaccination if required.
“We still have the plastic barriers and two meters of space,” added Connell. “We try to respect everyone’s wishes.”
Connell said she was happy with the restaurants and wellness sites’ early numbers. “Before we started calling people, we had no idea how many people would come back to the sites. We noticed a slight decrease. “
Connell said the sites would also resume speaking programs and offer other services in the coming months.
To inquire about meeting and home delivery locations, call:
Allegany Limestone Nutrition Facility, 3799 S. Nine Mile Road, Allegany (716) 373-6376.
Location Cattaraugus / Little Valley, S. Main St. 211, Cattaraugus. (716) 257-3035.
Delevan location, 78 S. Main St., Delevan (716) 492-2543.
Franklinville Site, Baptist Church, 27 S. Main St., Franklinville (716) 676-3993.
Location Gowanda, Academy Place, 1 School St., Gowanda (716) 532-5598.
Olean Location, John J Ash Community Center, 112 N. Barry St., Olean (716) 372-3602.
Portville Site, Masonic Temple, 14 Temple St., Portville (716) 933-7080.
Main St., Randolph Location, Congregational Building, 72 Main St., Randolph (716) 358-5656.
Located in South Dayton, Free Methodist Church, 327 Pine St., South Dayton (716) 988-5037.
West Valley Site, St. Pauls United Methodist Church, 9370 Route 240. West Valley (716) 942-6695.