Thursday, Dec. 01, 2022 |
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Kamana Senior Center has officially welcomed kupuna back to classes after 21 months of inactivity.
Beginning last week, the Hawaii County Elderly Recreation Services launched exercise, art and technology classes in Hilo, Keaau, Pahoa, Naalehu, Holualoa and Kailua-Kona.
Classes were brought back for about two weeks over the summer in 2021, but were quickly shut down when the delta variant caused a surge in COVID-19 cases on the island.
Last Tuesday, Amy Kanemoto sat in ceramics class to fix some of the sculptures she started last summer, but could not finish.
“I’m so glad to have the classes back, especially this one,” Kanemoto said. “I started this over the summer, and when cases went up, we had to stop. So I’m glad they offered it again.”
Despite the recent surge of COVID cases due to the omicron variant, seniors, teachers and ERS employees were happy to see people back in classes and socializing with their friends, even at a distance.
“A lot of our seniors were ready to come back and be around people to exercise and do their art,” said Program Director Iris Higa. “This is definitely more of a therapeutic outlet for them other than begin isolated.”
Classes are open to those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated, but masks must be worn through the entirety of every class.
“Everyone has been understanding during these changing times and has been okay with going with the flow,” Higa said. “I think people are happy that after more than two years, we’re fully open.”
ERS plans to continue to offer classes for the nine-week session despite the spike in virus cases.
“I’m a firm believer that socialization helps keep seniors healthier for a longer period of time, even with underlying health conditions,” said Roann Okamura, operations director. “The reason why we felt this was good to do was because all of the facilities are county facilities, which are monitored and sanitized every day.”
ERS serves about 10,000 seniors islandwide, and with the precautions set in place, many kupuna feel comfortable being around people and being active again.
“I’ve been coming to these classes for 10 years, and I’m so happy to be back, especially to play mah jong,” Mary Chan said. “We’re all feet apart and have masks and fans, so I feel safe.”
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