Westport senior center to reopen after lengthy COVID shutdown

Photo of Amanda Cuda
Westport Center for Senior Activities Director Sue Pfister

Westport Center for Senior Activities Director Sue Pfister

Chris Marquette / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Before the pandemic hit, Burton Stuttman was a regular at the Westport Center for Senior Activities.

He worked out there several times a week, but it was as much a place for him to socialize as it was for him to exercise.

“I used the treadmill and then I’d sit and have coffee and (talk) with a couple of friends,” said Stuttman, 86.

When the center had to close in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stuttman’s social life took a hit. Though the center still offered virtual programs, he didn’t participate. After all, he said, what he really loved about the senior center was seeing his friends in person.

“I missed some of the guys I used to hang out with,” Stuttman said. “It was a place to go to and see people.”

So Stuttman was pleased to hear that the center will re-open for limited in-person programming starting July 1. Center director Sue Pfister said the center would be open by reservations and appointments only through July and August, and protocols would be reassessed in September.

Though Stuttman still can’t do independent workouts at the center, he’s registered for a fitness class. He said even if he can’t go back to his old routine in full, he’s just happy that the center will be open again.

“I’m very glad it’s coming back,” he said.

Pfister also is looking forward to seeing Stuttman and other faithful patrons in person again. “I want to feel the energy, feel the camaraderie and share the smiles that are always abundant as I walk through the Center for Senior Activities,” Pfister said.

She said she appreciates that seniors “hung in there” through the pandemic, and that many of them participated in the virtual activities that were provided. Still, Pfister said, “none of that can take the place of in-person programming.”

The phased reopening will include in-house, outdoor, hybrid, televised, and Zoom classes during the summer semester. The congregate luncheon program will remain closed during the summer, and drop-in visits aren’t allowed during this initial reopening phase.

Water fountains will not be available, so participants are encouraged to bring a water bottle from home.

Pfister said many preparations have been made for the re-opening, including adding enhanced air-handlers, sanitizing stations and other health and safety measures.

It’s been sad walking through the empty hallways of the senior center this past year or so, Pfister said, and she’s happy to welcome people back to the center, even if it’s on a limited basis. “I’m probably going to get super emotional on July 1,” she said.

Participants must use the center’s new system, MyActiveCenter (https://myactivecenter.com/) to sign up for activities, classes, and programs. For instructions and a list of upcoming courses visit www.westportct.gov/seniorcenter or call 203-341-5099.