Older Persons’ Commission members engage in tai chi at the center.

Older Persons’ Commission members engage in tai chi at the center.

Photo provided by the Older Persons’ Commission

OPC building open by appointment only

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 24, 2021


ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Older Persons’ Commission is now buzzing with activity, albeit by appointment only, and at a reduced capacity.

“The doors are open. There is somebody there to greet you, but you have to have a reason to be in the building at this point — and an appointment,” said Colleen Burtka, the OPC’s marketing and development specialist.

By registering in advance, OPC members can currently utilize the center’s walking track, pools, cardio room, weight room, fitness classes, bingo, art and enrichment programs, lectures, club meetings, and more within the building.     

“We’re following the executive orders, and that applies to capacity limits, screening, masking, social distancing and the sanitization of all the areas within the building. We have the sneeze guards, and most importantly, all individuals that are attending activities within the building do have to preregister,” OPC Executive Director Renee Cortright said.

One service the OPC has been unable to resume due to state restrictions is its on-site congregate meal service; however, Cortright said the center now offers a grab-and-go meal service at lunchtime Mondays-Fridays.

“It allows seniors to check in with someone and see if there are some other services they might need, and along with a wellness check, they get a well-balanced meal,” she explained.

Through the new COVID-19 reality of face masks and social distancing, the OPC has continued its support services, including Meals on Wheels deliveries, transportation, the Medical Equipment Loan Closet, support groups and telephone reassurance call programs.

Equally important, Cortright said, has been the center’s virtual programming — which includes live and recorded sessions of fitness activities, enrichment opportunities, art classes, lectures, presentations, book clubs and more — and now in-person fitness, enrichment and art programming.

“We didn’t have virtual programming prior to COVID, but since we started it last April, it has just taken off,” she explained. “We continue to offer a wide range of topics on Zoom, including exercise, yoga, language classes, book discussions, clubs and presentations.”

While the goal of the OPC is to eventually get back to pre-pandemic operations and services, officials said it will take some time.

“It’s a process, so it’s going to be one step at a time,” said Burka.

At press time, per the MI Safe Start Map, Oakland County was at the highest risk level, “E,” or over 150 COVID-19 cases per million. State officials said the overall calculated risk level for each county is taken as the seven-day average daily cases per million or a percent test positivity risk level, whichever is worse.

“We’re at risk level E — we need to get to the final level, which is ‘low-A’  — so we still have a ways to go, and until we get to that point, we would not fully reopen the building without preregistration,” Cortright said.

Officials said a county risk level may not improve until Oakland County has experienced a decline for at least 14 days following the most recent level change.

Until then, Cortright said, the OPC is using a phased approach to open programs and services in the building.

“We’re trying to do what we can do with the team members that we have,” Cortright said. “We don’t want to overwhelm everybody — because there is a lot involved with (COVID-19 restrictions), when it comes to cleaning and screening — but we’re hoping to add billiards, pottery, cards and games soon,” she said.

While the OPC staff is smaller than it was pre-pandemic, Cortright said her team is “mighty,” forging ahead to find new, creative ways to meet the essential mental and physical needs of members — many of whom are at-risk, homebound seniors — along with offering enriching and engaging programming for members.

“We don’t have the same full staff that we had in the past, so everybody is wearing many hats — but they have just been phenomenal,” she said. “I cannot say enough about our OPC team members and how committed they have been through this whole process to really provide comfort and compassion to the seniors throughout all of this pandemic. They just truly have a heart for caring for our senior population, and it’s just fantastic.”

For questions on any of the OPC’s programs, call (248) 608-0249 or visit opcseniorcenter.org.