By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Yukon recreation center for older adults is again buzzing with activity after an extended closure.
The Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore, reopened June 2 after being closed more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Stitt’s stay-at-home order for older, vulnerable people ended June 1.
The City of Yukon’s Dale Robertson Center provides Yukon residents age 55 years and older a place to experience an active lifestyle. This popular gathering place offers fellowship to its silver-haired patrons.
“People want to come out again but they’re being cautious,” said Casey Barnett, supervisor at the Dale Robertson Center. “Our job here is to present options for people. The great thing about being free is you get to make choices about your own safety.
“We’re offering activities, and there’s no pressure if someone wants to attend or doesn’t want to attend. We have plenty of hand sanitizer and we encourage everyone to respect other people’s space. And they seem to be doing well with that.”
Camaraderie was what many center patrons missed the most during the extended closure.
“It was incredible just to see the looks on people’s faces when they got to come back in the front doors again, see their friends, interact, share smiles, and share stories,” Barnett related.
“It was amazing to see the sense of relief wash over people when they got to come back in the building and interact with people again. … It meant so much. I loved it.”
During normal operations, the Dale Robertson Center has more than 35 activities programmed weekly – including dance classes, physical fitness classes, trips, arts classes, crafts, board games, and cards. Lunch is served Monday through Friday.
The program schedule has been truncated somewhat, but center patrons do have plenty from which to choose.
“We’re taking it slow,” said Barnett, matter-of-factly. “A lot of our activities are spaced out anyway and we’re blessed to have a very large activity room.
“With a lot of the activities we do – like line dancing, Tai Chi and chair exercise classes – there’s no reason for anyone to be touching each other and they can spread out.”
After each exercise class, center staff cleans weights through their sanitizing dishwasher.
A small quilting group has returned but the center has yet to break out the card games or dominoes again. Bus trips also haven’t started back up.
During the shutdown, Dale Robertson Center staff prepared lunch meals for patrons to pick up through a “drive-by” service in front of the building.
“Now that we’ve reopened, we’re seeing an average of 30-35 people a day in our dining room and they’re spread out,” Barnett reported. “In the lunchroom, we’ve spread out the tables and have less chairs per table.”
Barnett estimated the center’s attendance has been between one-fourth to one-third of what it had been before Oklahoma’s shelter-at-home mandate.
“There are a number of people who aren’t ready to come back in the building yet,” she said. “We still do 20 to 25 drive-through meals a day and there’s still plenty of people on Mobile Meals.”
The Dale Robertson Center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone age 55 years and above is encouraged to come visit – particularly those who have struggled in seclusion.
“It’s meant a lot to people that our doors are open and they’re able to interact and get some quality back in their life,” Barnett shared.
“We’re here when people are ready to come back. That’s what my job is. To be here when people need me.”
For more information, call 350-7680.