‘Something for us to look forward to’: Albuquerque senior centers reopen

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque’s Department of Senior Affairs has started opening up gym access and limited in-person activities at Palo Duro and Los Volcanes 50+ Fitness Centers. All activities will be offered on a reservation-only basis in order to ensure social distancing and compliance with the public health order.

Attendees said they were very happy to be back, especially after the mental toll the isolation took on them. Ernestine Ortiz Martinez has been attending these kinds of classes at the senior centers off and on for 10 years. “You meet friends and you make long-term relationships. We’d text each other ‘Are you coming to class?’ and that kind of thing,” Martinez said.

When something so routine for her had suddenly changed, Martinez said she lost motivation to complete projects at home. “In the beginning it was okay but after a while I really started missing coming to class, seeing my friends, hanging out and completing a project. Sometimes it was hard to get motivated at home, but when you’re in class it keeps you a little more motivated,” Martinez said.

Some, like Marian McKenzie, missed working on projects so much that she decided to keep meeting with a friend after the senior centers closed down last year. “It was like a special day, it was something for us to look forward to,” McKenzie said. “But it’s been really hard.”

She said her favorite part about being able to come back is being able to see her friends again. “We’re a really supportive group. We feed off each other’s energy and have ideas to help with projects, so it’s wonderful to see everyone again,” McKenzie said.

Mina Villareal said even though classes are significantly reduced to allow for social distancing within the classes, she’s grateful to have the opportunity to come back. “It really means a lot to us, especially us senior people, just to come in and enjoy the friendship that we have with each other. It’s just so nice to be able to get out of the house to visit with each other, help each other, see what we have done within the last year and just feeling like we’re coming back to normal,” Villareal said.

In addition to gym access, Senior Affairs will be opening computer labs at North Valley and Highland Senior Centers and pool rooms at Los Volcanes, North Valley and Palo Duro Senior Centers. Through a partnership with AARP, Senior Affairs will be able to expand tax services at four Centers. To register for all other activities, call the facility hosting the program. Phone numbers, programming information and locations can be found at cabq.gov/seniors.

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