SOUTH PLAINFIELD – The South Plainfield Senior Center, once the hub of social activities for seniors in town, has been quiet for the past year due to COVID-19. Since the seniors cannot meet inside the building, the staff has been hard at work bringing the Senior Center to them by offering free online classes. Zumba, Chair Yoga, and Chair Pilates are scheduled daily, and this month, new classes have been added, including Chair Pilates, Reiki Energy Healing, and coming soon, Healthy Bones.

“We get more people joining as members because they want to take these classes,” said Linda Fiore, Assistant to the Director. “They hear about the classes from other people. They say they didn't realize we do so much."

When the center was open, their classes were always very popular, drawing large numbers of seniors. When the center had to close, classes were held outside in the stadium behind the PAL Building or at the Community Pool. When the chill of late autumn forced seniors indoors, classes went virtual. 

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“The seniors love the classes,” said Tree Olano, Senior Center Director. “We offer different classes every day. Going virtual was a bit of an adjustment for them, but they are used to it now. We also have a call-in line, so they can use their phone if they like.”

“The Senior Center is so wonderful,” said Grace Janus, member. “They are just doing everything for us in this horrible time and the exercise classes are a big help. They keep us moving. The staff does a wonderful job.” 

The class schedule includes Zumba on Mondays at 1p.m., Wednesdays at 11a.m., and Fridays at 1p.m. Chair Yoga is on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11a.m. Zumba Gold is on Wednesdays at 11a.m. 

Instructor Laurie Fechter has been teaching people of all ages exercise, Zumba, Yoga, Pilates, and more for over 12 years. 

“I love teaching here,” said Fechter. “The people are amazing. When I was teaching outside, they came in all kinds of horrible weather. It was rainy, it was windy, it was nasty, it was too hot and sunny, they came for everything. They were amazing. They’re such a hearty group. They’re coming to the online classes too. Some of them didn’t know how to use Zoom before, but now they’re using it!”

“Zumba is wonderful,” said Janus. “Laurie is amazing. She is the best and such a great teacher. We’re having fun even though we have to be separated, but we see each other on Zoom now. It’s really nice, but kudos to the Senior Center. They do a wonderful job!”

Chair Pilates is a new class that begins Mar. 3 and will take place virtually every Wednesday from 3p.m. to 3:45p.m. Chair Pilates activates the core muscles through breathing and controlled, flowing exercises. According to Fechter, Chair Pilates is a gentle but invigorating workout which includes seated exercises for the core, arms, legs, feet, and standing balance using the chair for support.

Members are also excited about Reiki Energy Healing, which will take place from 4p.m. to 5p.m. on Mar. 1, 15, and 29. Conducted by Reiki Master Cathy Scarpitto, PT, the class will also be held over Zoom and will include an introduction to Reiki, short meditation, and an energy healing.

Scarpitto explains that Reiki means Universal or Spiritual (Rei) – Life Force Energy (Ki). She says it is a simple and powerful system of energy work used for developing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual harmony and wholeness. Since energy is not confined by space and time, it is possible to send Reiki energy and have a distance healing. 

“Most all people feel a deep sense of relaxation, calm, peace, and stress relief during a Reiki Healing,” said Scapitto. “Some people can feel tingling or warmth in the areas that I am working on. Others see colors. Some people actually receive messages from loved ones in different ways – by seeing a vision, hearing words, feeling their presence of just getting a knowingness.”  

Senior Center staff continues to add new classes so that seniors have many ways to keep active and engaged from the comfort of their homes. Soon they will be launching a Healthy Bones virtual class and ideas are constantly in the works for inventive ways to keep spirits high. 

"We’re trying to offer as much variety as we can," Fiore said. "They like it because now they can do it in their own home since most of them are homebound.”

The South Plainfield Senior Center Facebook page is extremely active and very popular with daily positive messages and information. Golden Gourmet will be launched soon on social media with new recipes posted frequently. Members will be invited to share stories about their experience making the dishes as well as to share nostalgic memories from the past.

“Soon we’ll be back to normal, but just look what they do with the Zoom,” said Brenda Rivar, member. “I’m taking the classes. You wake up in the morning and what else are you going to do but clean. They are terrific. There’s not enough words to describe them all. They’re amazing!”

For more information about classes at the South Plainfield Senior Center classes and druve-thru events, call (908) 754-1047, or visit the Senior Center FaceBook Page.