One of Malibu’s most vulnerable populations during the pandemic may be the first to turn a corner toward normalcy. The Malibu Senior Center reports many members have started receiving COVID-19 vaccines. For others anxious to do so, the center is there to help navigate county websites to book an appointment.
“Anyone who needs assistance can call the senior center at 310.456.2489, ext. 357, for help booking a vaccination,” senior center recreation coordinator Lisa Crespo said.
Before the pandemic struck, about 1,200 area seniors were participating in programs held at the center at Malibu City Hall. When the shutdown began, Crespo and her staff started phoning hundreds of members for weekly wellness checks. After a poll of members, the number dropped dramatically to just under 90 people who are now called monthly. But those who are on the list are appreciative of the program.
“People are appreciative of our calls and want to get back together in person when it’s safe to do so,” Crespo reported.
To lift spirits until that time, the senior center has begun holding drive-thru events—one just last Tuesday before Valentine’s Day. The events at Malibu Bluffs Park are an incentive for seniors to get out of the house in a safe, socially distanced way to have some face-to-face interaction, which has been sadly lacking these past 11 months yet so desperately needed.
“We did a drive-thru in December and the response to that—people were so happy and joyful-wanting to be out of the house,” according to Crespo. The Valentine’s Day event saw about 40 cars drive up to receive a goodie bag and some good cheer. With music playing, seniors greeted the center employees, some of whom they hadn’t seen in about a year.
“They were happy to see us and happy to say hello,” Crespo said. The gift bags were handed off at a safe distance using a net attached to a long pole. Drivers just rolled down their windows without ever leaving their cars.
“It was a very positive experience,” the coordinator said. “From our perspective, it shows how much the seniors value community here.”
The center is also holding monthly virtual tech help. For those struggling setting up Zoom, Facetime or other platforms, the center is there to help. Just call for an appointment for a 30-minute one-on-one guided walk-through for all the particulars in navigating new technology. The next tech help program is scheduled for March 6.
For those wanting a real walk outdoors, the center will be hosting a socially distanced wilderness hike schedule for March 12. The two-mile walk at Charmlee Park is limited to 10 participants for safety precautions.
“If we have enough demand, we’ll look at opening another date to do it again,” Crespo said.
One question Crespo hears a lot is, “When will the senior center reopen?” She can only answer, “We’re very hopeful that when things become safe, we’re able to start phasing our classes back in. Unfortunately, we just don’t have a time line of when that would be. We can only open when the county allows us to do so. Things are getting better in LA County, so it’s on the horizon.”
“We miss seeing everyone at the senior center,” Crespo said. “We miss the daily interaction with the community. We can’t wait to get back to classes, excursions, lunches and all the fun things that we used to do.”
For seniors who could use help getting to a vaccination site: the City of Malibu’s Dial-A-Ride service will provide a ride for Malibu residents 65 and over who need transportation to their vaccination appointment at sites in Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Westlake Village. The van is equipped with lift assistance. Call the Senior Center for more information: 310.456.2489, ext. 357.