ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Many senior citizens are being impacted after the SOWEGA Council on Aging said it was indefinitely closing 13 of its 14 senior centers across South Georgia.
Izzie Sadler, the executive director for SOWEGA, said this new adjustment has advantages for both senior citizens and the community.
According to the SOWEGA Council on Aging’s website, 10 percent of Southwest Georgia’s population is 65 years of age or older.
WALB News10 asked how many out of that percentage are registered with SOWEGA’s programs.
“Very small amount. So, that’s what we want to do, we wanna reach more people,” said Sadler.
In a letter sent to county leaders that was dated April 29, the non-profit organization announced the closings of senior centers indefinitely.
The closings are in response to COVID-19, according to the letter.
“So, while people may hear that the buildings have closed, the services have never closed,” explained Sadler.
The closings sparked conversations between county leaders and the SOWEGA Council on Aging about what’s best for senior citizens in each county.
Some centers may reopen but only time will tell.
Some counties have already started working with the non-profit to benefit seniors.
“Some of the counties are opening up their facility for us to use two times a week. So it looks different in every county,” said Sadler.
All but one of the buildings used by the Council on Aging were leased from either county or city governments.
With the centers closing, SOWEGA officials want senior citizens to utilize their online and telephonic services. They are calling it “Senior Centers Without Walls.”
Sadler said that before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors were not heavily participating at centers locally.
“There’s been a decline in senior citizen participation across our region and across the state and from what I understand, across the nation," explained Sadler.
Sadler said closing the buildings is helping the non-profit save money. Those dollars that normally would help keep the lights on at centers now will go to funding programs.
They are also using local restaurants to help feed their seniors. One of them being BJ’s Country Cooking in Albany.
“The funding now goes into the local economy,” said Sadler.
In the letter to county leaders, it said the future of congregation activities is unknown right now due to the heightened risk for senior citizens.