The City of Dickson Senior Center reopened its doors on Oct. 7 after having been closed since March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among those eager to return was Harold Cecil, 90, who started coming to the center two and a half years ago after having survived cancer.

“I really missed activities and the people here,” said Cecil. “They’re real nice and friendly. I can aggravate them, and they can aggravate me. I missed the exercising, and there’s loneliness when you live by yourself.”

He recalled how weak he was when he first came to the center due to the cancer treatments.

“I was so weak back then I couldn’t hardly do anything,” he said. “I started exercising and taking that yoga chair — it took a lot of years off of me. Philene (Travathan) was a real good instructor.”  

Originally from New Hope, Ky., Cecil moved to Dickson in 1972.

“I married a girl from Dickson and lived in Louisville, then Nashville, then Dickson,” he said. “We were married for 67 years. She died in April 2017. Her name was Laura Ann Cecil. Yates was her maiden name.”

He said his favorite activities at the center are the exercise room, yoga, square dancing, bingo and lunch.

“Going to church every day and getting out helps a lot,” he said, adding that he will turn 91 in November.

He said that what he likes best about the center are the caring people and positive atmosphere.

“I think it’s the friendships and the camaraderie and the people are nice that come here,” he said. “And we have the best director (Joan Rial). She is wonderful. She has done wonders to the place since she’s been here and it’s really increased the numbers of people here. Plus, she gets into the activities, too.

“It’s good to get back and see the people that you haven’t seen for a pretty good while. There’s been a group of us that have still been communicating here. A lot of us go to the same church and communicate there. They all come to my house, and we have what we call a porch party.

“We bring our own lunch. It keeps us sane. This isolation from COVID is one of the worst things that can happen to people. It was depressing. But talking on the phone helps to keep you sane and feel connected.”

Cecil, who is retired, said he worked on Capitol Hill in Nashville for 45 years.

“I served as a legislature’s facility manager for a long time,” he said. “I retired 32 years ago, having served under Ned McWherter.”

He has a daughter, 67, who lives in Pewaukee, outside of Milwaukee.

He said that he especially appreciates the center’s staff and the leadership of Rial, who he said has been very clear on restrictions with masks and social distancing.

“When you touch something up here, it’s yours,” Rial said. “Do not touch more than one thing. We just have to be careful. We have social distancing and masks. You need to be here to socialize. It’s very important for seniors to be here.”

Assistant director Dwan Nelson could not stop smiling due to the return of the seniors.

“We will get through this,” Nelson said. “It’s so good to see everybody.”

It is recommended that everyone entering the center wear a face covering or other acceptable mask. Masks are available at the center. The number of participants in the Senior Center will be limited to 90 people. All tables will be positioned at least six feet apart with limited seating.

Participants are encouraged to limit contact to small groups of individuals. No shared items or materials will be allowed, such as books, pens, magazines, games, playing cards or other supplies. Food cannot be brought into or shared in the center.

Rial stated everyone must follow “the three Ws” which are: Wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance.

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