St. Clair Shores Senior Center Fitness Instructor Ruben Ascencio sits behind plexiglass to check membership cards.

St. Clair Shores Senior Center Fitness Instructor Ruben Ascencio sits behind plexiglass to check membership cards.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


St. Clair Shores seniors express joy, caution as fitness center reopens

Ice arena also reopens

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 18, 2020

 Signs at the fitness center entrance spell out the guidelines for gym use to keep users safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Signs at the fitness center entrance spell out the guidelines for gym use to keep users safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The equipment in the Senior Activity Center’s Fitness Center is spaced for social distancing, but equipment that was unable to be moved has been taped off to help members exercise at a distance from one another.

The equipment in the Senior Activity Center’s Fitness Center is spaced for social distancing, but equipment that was unable to be moved has been taped off to help members exercise at a distance from one another.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — After a months-long hiatus, the fitness center at the St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center is back open for business.

Several members were waiting to get into the center when it reopened at 7 a.m. Sept. 9, and one of the members working out that morning said she definitely missed it during the shutdown.

“Oh my God, yes!” said Carol Baecke, of Eastpointe. “I just turned 70 and I just really want to be healthy for the rest of my duration.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Sept. 3 reopening gyms and pools in regions of the state where they had remained closed, including metro Detroit, and allowing for organized sports practices and games to resume, subject to strict protections meant to limit the spread of the virus. Gyms and pools were allowed to reopen beginning Sept. 9 after being shut down with many other industries in March due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Bertha Perkins, of St. Clair Shores, has been a member of the Senior Activity Center “forever and ever.”

“I just love to exercise,” she said. “I’m glad it’s open because I have another place to go. I’m able to come here and work off some stress. Walking around the block doesn’t do it.”

The St. Clair Shores Senior Activity Center has been offering outdoor classes at Blossom Heath Park since outdoor fitness classes were allowed back in June, and Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman said they plan to still offer outdoor classes through the month of September.

“We’ll play it by ear when it comes to October,” he said.

The fitness center at the Senior Activity Center already had its machines well spaced apart, Bowman said, and users will be required to wipe down their machines before and after each use. The center already required users to sign in when they enter so the department will be able to easily track people if they need to be contacted for any reason.

“We’re going to allow, like, nine people in the room at a time,” he said. “People come in, work out, one leaves and a new one comes in. We’re not going to be scheduling appointments unless we get to the point where we get some long lines.

“We’re going to adapt as we go.”

Fitness instructor Ruben Ascencio said when there is a line, they are asking users to only stay in the fitness center for one hour. They did remove or block off six pieces of equipment to make more space, he said.

There were six members waiting to get into the fitness center when it opened. A few hours later, he said the most frequent comment he had received was that it was difficult to work out while wearing a face mask.

“Because it’s a senior center, a lot of them already had breathing problems,” he said.

Per the Governor’s orders, participants are required to wear a mask if they can. They are also asked to self-check for symptoms before coming to the city facility.

“If you have a fever, if you have any COVID symptoms whatsoever, stay home,” Bowman said. “We’re going to be checking people’s temperatures as they come into the fitness center, we’re going to be asking questions. We’re all just trying to stay safe.”

The fitness center is open to members from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays. Membership costs $25 for a resident of St. Clair Shores.

Baecke said she felt good about coming to the fitness center when she saw all the precautions that are being taken, but Ascencio said not everyone is ready to come back.

“I talked to a lot of people, they’re nervous about coming in,” he said, explaining that several members have told him that while they know the center is taking precautions, they’re more concerned about the actions of other members, both in and outside of the center.

“A lot of them said they’re going to wait until they come up with a vaccine or they can exercise without a mask,” he said.

The St. Clair Shores Civic Arena reopened officially the same day, offering learn-to-skate programs, figure skating and hockey.

Open skating isn’t returning yet, Bowman said, and the rink will operate at 25% capacity.

“Obviously, it’s absolutely huge,” Bowman said. “The city of St. Clair Shores did everything they could to help along with the Governor’s plan and eliminating COVID, and now we will be moving forward within the Governor’s orders to providing as many activities as we can for our residents to enjoy.”

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