BURTON — Fearing for the health of is participants, the board overseeing the Senior Winter Games of Genesee County have cancelled the event this coming year.
Jean Johnson, director of the Burton Senior Activity Center, 3410 S. Grand Traverse, and president of the Genesee County Senior Citizens Centers Board of Directors, said the board made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Senior Winter Games about two weeks ago.
Johnson said the decision was based the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus with the focus on keeping everyone involved in the games healthy and safe.
“We agonized over it,” said Johnson of the decision to cancel the games. “The whole program is for senior citizens, our most vulnerable group (with COVID-19), so it was a hard decision. For planning we were at the point where we needed to make deposits that are not refundable, and book venues. Cancelling was the best choice to make.”
Johnson said planning the Senior Winter Games, which just observed their 42nd year, takes a long time and includes arrangements such as booking time at bowling alleys and other places, so they don’t hold other events. Cancelling in June was the best way to be fair to the businesses and all of the people who sponsor the games, she said.
With the 2021 games now cancelled, Johnson said the board is planning for 2022, an event she said they hope to make “extra special” after having participants wait more than a year.
Johnson said the 2020 games were barely finished when the COVID-19 threat began earlier this year. She said the directors were planning to meet and discuss the fate of the 2021 games, knowing the pandemic was coming, the week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the stay-at-home order.
“We were going to make plans about how to handle it, but we had no idea how bad it would get,” she said. The meeting that was scheduled in March was ultimately cancelled due to the Coronavirus shutdown.
At the time, the senior centers throughout the county were all shut down, but recently Johnson said all of the buildings have begun a “soft start” in which limited numbers of people are allowed into the senior centers and many activities are being held outside where possible.
“It’s working very good outside,” said Johnson. “We enjoy being outside. My book club today was outside, and it was very nice and pleasant… we held it in the shade.”
The Burton Senior Activity Center is currently opened from 7 a.m.- 3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, with the early opening time to take advantage of cool mornings for exercise programs.
Johnson said the directors meet with the county via Zoom weekly to keep abreast of the latest information about COVID-19 and how it affects the senior citizen centers.
“They do a good job keeping us informed and telling us what the governor’s orders mean,” said Johnson. “They keep us informed about what we can and can’t do. Sometimes we think we’ll be able to bring something back and then something changes…they’re always changing our plans, it’s a unique situation.”
As more information becomes available about the 2022 Senior Winter Games, Johnson said the board will make it available.