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Murray Journal

Murray Senior Recreation Center helps older adults persevere in pandemic

Mar 11, 2021 02:52PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray Senior Recreation Center Director Tricia Cooke waves at Murray seniors. (Photo courtesy of Murray City)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Stung by the loss of activities and events, the Murray Senior Recreation Center had to get creative to meet the needs of older residents dealing with isolation and hunger during the pandemic.

At the center, supervisor April Callaway said 2020 was the most challenging year she’s faced during her years working there.

“Shock. Devastation. Fear,” Callaway said. “We were open one minute and closed the next. Our seniors suddenly had their ‘second home’ closed to them…no meals, no friends, no activities. The closure interrupted their daily routines as well as disrupted the staff here at the center.”

In addition to recreation and leisure-time activities, the center offers social services, nutritious meals, and educational, instructional and cultural programs for the general health and well-being of senior adults at no cost.

“The greatest needs are socialization and knowledge. They turn to us for information regarding their concerns and the future. When will we get to open the center and meet again? What is the availability of vaccines? The emotional need for reassurance and direction is vital to the seniors’ mental health,” Callaway said.

Staff has been calling and checking on seniors regularly to ensure their needs are being met. The center has been offering lunches every day on a drive-up basis. Although they had to cancel all their special events, they provided traditional holiday meals for curbside pickup at Thanksgiving and Christmas to share the holiday spirit with seniors. In October, they worked with Community Nursing Services to provide flu shot vaccines at Grant Park, in compliance with social distancing requirements.

“We offered car bingo from April through December, which was a great success,” Callaway said.

For car bingo, participants parked in the center parking lot, and staff handed out bingo cards. The staff would then call out a number over a speaker. If someone ended up with bingo, they could either yell or honk to announce their win.

Murray Senior Rec Center is currently offering Zoom classes, such as personal training, watercolors, history, grief support, nutrition, legal aid and storytelling workshops. To help those that don’t have access to a computer for Zoom classes, they are in the process of preparing iPads that can be checked out from the center and then used to access the Zoom classes. In collaboration with AARP, they are also working on a way to safely offer tax assistance this year.

According to Callaway, “We have a volunteer senior that delivers 10 backpacks filled with non-perishable food from the Utah Food Bank to us every week. We distribute them to seniors that have the greatest food needs. We have been sharing the information from the Salt Lake Health Department with regards to vaccinations. The biggest service we can provide is being available to talk with seniors and provide them with a listening ear and a comforting voice.

“The priority is to assist seniors in getting their vaccinations and spreading the word on how to get signed up. Staff is preparing for the time that the center will reopen and have implemented new procedures to ensure that the facility is clean and safe. The center will continue to provide Zoom classes, and in the spring, we’ll be offering car bingo again and starting our annual golf tournament.”

Although it will happen virtually, the center again will be participating in the ninth annual Storytelling Workshop. The first workshops focus on story development, while the last half focuses on performance. Participants will be invited to participate in the countywide Story Crossroads Festival.

For more information on Murray Senior Recreation Center services, call the center Monday-Friday between 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at 801-264-2635. Or, visit online at or