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Sumter seniors inch toward normalcy with phased reopening of Senior Services center

Despite being distanced and masked for safety, seniors were excited to see friends they hadn't seen in months.

SUMTER, S.C. — At Sumter Senior Services Monday, a room of seniors joined for activities in one of their first opportunities to return since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

They danced and clapped as music played inside.

Despite being distanced and masked for safety, this was a level of closeness that brought a smile to Rosa Ford, a member, for roughly the last ten years. 

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"To come together and be able to look at somebody else other than yourself in the mirror and laugh and talk to other people, that mean a whole lot, you know," Ford said.

The center, which offers food, transportation and activities to Sumter County seniors, has been closed for in-person services.

Older and at greater risk of coronavirus, Ford, like many other seniors, spent much of the pandemic alone.

"When it closed down it just make you close down within," Ford said.

RELATED: Vaccine offers hope for Sumter seniors home for months due to COVID-19

With more people vaccinated against the virus, Executive Director Gail Wilson said they began a slow, phased reopening.

“We want them to stay active, we want them to get out, but we also want to make sure that they’re safe in doing so," Wilson said. "It’s something where they don’t have to worry about being home because we still have some afraid to get out. They can come and be comfortable in their surroundings.”

The return is a step toward normalcy Ford said she's grateful for.

“...and I will be one happy soul when they open up for good," Ford said.

Sumter Senior Services is accepting new members, according to Wilson. It's a free service, but there is an application process and a waitlist. To learn more, visit their website