Senior centers make adjustments to protect vulnerable population from coronavirus

Updated: Mar. 12, 2020 at 11:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state’s largest gathering place for seniors has ramped up sanitation in an effort to protect guests from coronavirus.

Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center has more than 1,500 members with 300 clients on any given day. All are 60 years or older.

Upon entering the center, members will notice the new hand sanitizing dispenser.

The touchscreen computer used to sign in is also getting cleaned more often.

“I wipe it down every hour, sometimes I wipe it down more because we do get a lot of people coming in,” said staff member Davin-Jay Cruz, who monitors the entrance.

Senior centers adjust to changes due to outbreak
Senior centers adjust to changes due to outbreak(None)

Frequently used items were always wiped down daily by the cleaning staff, but that is done throughout the day now. “The door knobs, the fountains, chairs and tables. Everybody’s always touching those,” said Douglas Maynes, a member and retired custodian who helps out with cleaning efforts.

Suzanne Chun Oakland, the member director of the facility, says they have been reminding the seniors and staff not to come in if they’re not feeling well.

On Wednesday, when Hawaii News Now visited, dozens were singing, participating in ukulele, karate, yoga and sewing classes. It’s an important place for those who otherwise might be home alone.

“They come to exercise which is also important, socializing, all of that is a part of overall health,” said Chun Oakland.

Meal times are the biggest concern at all places where seniors gather.

Residents at Pohulani Elderly Apartments in Kakaako have noticed a lot of changes.

The food used to be served on an open plate and sometimes it was even buffet style. But now each meal is placed on the table and it’s sealed with a plastic pull-off cover, almost like a TV dinner.

Senior centers adjust practices during outbreak
Senior centers adjust practices during outbreak(None)

Juice, milk and water are all now in cartons.

“We were serving beverages in cups. We were having things more open. It was, help yourself," said Lori Lau, the director of Lanakila Pacific, which provides the food for many of the Oahu senior centers.

Lau says the heat-sealed compartments of food limits access by others because the person eating it, opens it. And residents are no longer able to sit right next to each other.

Instead, there’s an open chair in between.

It is an adjustment but everyone seems to understand the changes are for their safety.

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