In late March, senior centers across the county closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure impacted a significant number of senior citizens throughout DeKalb.
Director of DeKalb County Transportation and Council on Aging Emily McCamy said due to the pandemic, they are not holding activities at their facilities, and the public is not allowed inside their office or into the senior centers. However, the senior centers continue to deliver homebound meals and offer curbside pick-up meals for those that drive.
Fyffe residents Dianne and James Manning were regular attendees of the local senior center before it, as many centers throughout the county, were closed because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Dianne Manning said they attended every day unless they had a doctor’s appointment or a prior engagement come up that prevented them from going.
“We miss it so badly. You especially miss the fellowship that you would have with other people your age,” she said.
Manning said her husband James had been going to the Fyffe Senior Center since it opened around 2009, and she started going in 2012 after she retired.
“When I retired, I started going straight out there, so it was like I had somewhere to go every day. It’s really been an adjustment not going,” said Manning.
She said the first couple of months of staying at home were the hardest for them.
“We thought everything would be back to normal within a month or so after all this happened, then suddenly it wasn’t,” Manning said.
You become attached to people when you spend most of your time around them and they become like another family; You start to wonder if they are okay or if something is wrong. That feeling has stayed with them during the pandemic.
“We miss our friends. We all had our partners we played cards with or exercises with and did things together. We had a routine that sort of kept you from thinking about your aches and pains,” said Manning.
Like many residents throughout the county, the Mannings have had to adjust to a new way of life, a new normal.
Manning said they were fortunate to have various tasks and projects to do at home and stay occupied, from yard work to repairing their sheds.
“We’ve been staying in and trying to do things to stay busy, not to get depressed or anything like that,” she said.
Manning said she’s often thought about the people who live alone without anyone to keep them company and knows it must be hard on them.
“I’ve had my husband, and we’ve had each other to keep one another company. Most of the family is working. Our kids haven’t stopped working, and they go every day so you can’t visit them or anything,” she said.
Manning said that although most of their time is spent at home, they utilize Walmart's online grocery program and pickup service.
“It’s been a blessing really because otherwise you would have to go in the stores and we have not been in the stores since before all this started,” she said.
According to the Mannings, they are blessed with children who can get them what they need or can’t get for themselves.
Although, at times, it seems like the pandemic is getting better, Manning said the cases continue to rise.
She said her five-year-old grandson was exposed to the virus and has been in quarantine with his family for some time now.
“So we can’t see them, and that’s just breaking our hearts because we had been able to see our grandson when he would come over and stay with his [other] grandparents and we would go over there and visit with them,” said Manning.
She said her grandson was asked why he didn’t like the quarantine, and he said, ‘I don’t like it because I can’t go to the stores.’
Of the new normal, Manning said either they are becoming adjusted to it or getting a little better for them.
“It doesn’t seem to affect us as bad now as it did at first. Which, I think the weather has a lot to do with it because you can get outside and take a walk or do gardening and yard work,” she said.
Manning said that along with the loss of their daily activities, their significant events such as the Senior Prom, annual senior picnic in Huntsville and the Master Games of Alabama had been canceled this year, so they don’t have any of those activities to look forward to.
“It really put a damper on all of our activities we normally do. We stayed really busy, then suddenly you find yourself not having anything like that to do, and you have to pick up something else to keep yourself occupied,” she said.
Recently, the local bowling alley opened back up, and the Mannings have been able to revisit one of their “thrilled” hobbies. However, they still miss their senior center and are waiting for it to open back up.
“When it does, we will probably be the first ones out there,” Manning said.
She said there is only so much TV you can watch, and although the Hallmark movies have been a blessing, they are also “getting old.”
Currently, the Mannings haven’t attended church, which was also part of their routine.
“I would have never dreamed in my lifetime that anything like this [pandemic] would have ever happened,” said Manning.
She said they are focusing on trying to stay safe and out of the hospital as they wait for a sense of normality to return.
McCamy said the council on aging office is open and helping all clients over the phone.
“If anyone needs assistance with meals, Medicare Part D, or their non-generic prescription medicines, they can call us at 256-845-8590. We will be happy to help, “ she said.
Other services offer through the COA include the following:
• Farmers Market Vouchers - people are 60 and older who meet the income requirement can call to register. Monthly household income cannot exceed $1,718 for one person, $2,327 for two people, $2,934 for three people, $3,541 for four people, $4,150 for five people and $4,756 for six people.
• Meals - meals are provided to DeKalb residents ages 60 and older that need them. There are no income guidelines. Call to apply.
• Transportation - public transportation is available.
For more information or to set up an appointment, call 256-845-8590 or leave a voicemail with a brief message with what you need assistance with.
The Fort Payne Council on Aging is located at 600 Tyler Ave. SE Fort Payne.