A grateful return to normal at
Cobb’s senior centers
2022 | FACTBOOK 177
Cobb seniors participate in workout demos
By Chart Riggall
SMYRNA — The Freeman Poole Senior Center is
a second home for Theo Hill, a place to see friends,
exercise, and chew the fat over a game of chess. Not
having those opportunities during the pandemic, Hill
said, was devastating.
“I think it was, for all citizens across the country, it was the
worst thing I think I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Hill said.
“There’s a connection that the center, and the centers in
Cobb County, offers our special group,” she added.
Cobb Senior Services facilities reopened, albeit on a very
limited basis, in October 2020 but greatly expanded their
programming and services as the summer of 2021 rolled
on. Meetings and seminars have resumed, mask mandates
have ended, and card games and fitness classes are back. For
regular users of the centers like Hill, it’s been a parting of the
dark clouds of 2020.
“A lot of us don’t have the privilege of having people at
home with us,” said Hill, who’s been coming to Freeman
Poole for the last 15 years. “A lot of us, I would say 70% or
more, live by themselves. And this is a haven for them to get
out and connect with the community and friends.”
“We call it the Old Folks’ Country Club,” she added
with a laugh.
As vaccinations become more widespread — Department
of Public Health data shows more than 94% of county
residents over 65 were vaccinated by mid-June 2021 — some
peace of mind has returned.
“I barely made it past the driveway for the last year … but
I’m more comfortable getting out since I’ve had the vaccine,
a lot more comfortable,” added Mike Jones as he slid a piece
across the chessboard, his opponent Stephen Connolly
grumbling in consternation.
That’s not to say Cobb Senior Services has been standing
by over the last year and a half. During the height of the
pandemic when seniors were all but completely confined to
their homes, Deputy Director Sandee Panichi said county
staff stepped up to bring the services to the seniors.
“We had a drive-thru meal delivery, our transportation
was still transporting people to physician appointments,
our care managers were still taking phone calls for people
who had any type of care needs, or maybe they needed
rental or utility assistance … we were very, very busy,”
During that time, Senior Services provided nearly
76,000 frozen meals and produce boxes around the county,
served food to over 15,000 seniors, and brought over
4,500 restaurant meals to a half-dozen senior high-rises
around Cobb. That work involved partnerships with local