Westport Center for Senior Activities closes until further notice

The+Westport+Department+of+Human+Services+%28DHS%29+closed+all+facilities+and+daily+programs+at+the+Westport+Center+for+Senior+Activities+%28WCSA%29+until+further+notice+due+to+the+novel+Coronavirus+%28COVID-19%29%2C+effective+March+11.++

Photo by Serena Ye '20

The Westport Department of Human Services (DHS) closed all facilities and daily programs at the Westport Center for Senior Activities (WCSA) until further notice due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), effective March 11.

Serena Ye ’20, Broadcast Director

The Westport Department of Human Services (DHS) closed all facilities and daily programs at the Westport Center for Senior Activities (WCSA) until further notice due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), effective March 11.  

Prior to the initial local outbreak, the department took vital steps to prepare against the virus. 

“We distributed flyers, pamphlets and Q&A sheets from the Center for Disease Control (CDC),” Susan Pfister, WCSA director, said. “We also advised [seniors] what they should have in their kitchen cabinets for two weeks as this virus ramped up.” 

Another key part of the precautionary process was communication and collaboration with other town departments, such as the Westport Emergency Operations Team. The DHS staff also participates in drills and exercises with the police, fire, EMS, public works, health district and public schools on an annual basis in the event of such urgent outbreaks.

“Situations like these are a part of our training… to be sure we can handle anything that comes our way,” DHS director Elaine Daignault said. “It’s our job to protect and serve our community and that philosophy is at the core of all that we do.” 

“A lot of what goes on at the WCSA is socialization and a feeling of being ‘home away from home,’” Pfister said. 

Alternative educational, social, health and creative art programs have been implemented to continue fostering a learning environment. 

“We sent out virtual learning links last week in our weekly Constant Contact blast and will continue to do so weekly until we resume normal operating hours,” Pfister said. 

The online puzzles and games offer an accessible and easy way for seniors to stay connected and cheerful during this period of isolation. 

At the same time, the DHS will carry on essential support services such as emergency food and medication delivery as well as income eligible assistance to residents who qualify for various programs. While the buildings are being cleaned and sanitized, staff members have been ordered to handle emails and calls at home in order to practice social distancing. 

One plan that will operate without interruptions is the home delivered meal program. 

“Thanks to our dedicated caterer and staff who have stepped up to deliver the meals in a safe manner, extra food has been provided to clients in case deliveries are interrupted due to additional quarantines,” Pfister said.

Thanks to our dedicated caterer and staff who have stepped up to deliver the meals in a safe manner, extra food has been provided to clients in case deliveries are interrupted due to additional quarantines”

— Susan Pfister, WCSA director

With the constant slew of misinformation and conspiracies on the Coronavirus due to the instantaneous frenzy of social media, Pfister advises to listen to local experts, such as those from the town government and Westport Weston Health District (WWHD). “We need to self-isolate to one’s best ability if we’re going to stop the spread,” Pfister said. “This is new to all of us and I don’t think folks realize the seriousness of this disease.”    

Staples English teacher David Stockwell has created class traditions of bringing his Reading and Writing Fiction classes to the senior center each semester. 

“The place is a wonderful resource for creativity and learning, and people care so much for each other there,” Stockwell said. 

On such visits, he and his classes contribute to the welcoming atmosphere by sharing their writing pieces, food and stories. 

“We are a strong community because of our sincere and intense concern for each other, now and always,” Stockwell said.

Because elders are an especially vulnerable group to the novel Coronavirus, following CDC recommendations as well as receiving support from family, friends and neighbors is critical. 

“A simple daily phone call to check in will go a long way,” Pfister said. “Westport has always pulled together during challenges and although this is for sure different than any other challenge, I have faith that Westport will support one another and become even stronger and better.”