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55 Plus Centre extends closure

Centre serving older adults tentatively set to open August 31 with new COVID-19 restrictions.
55 plus COVID-19 closure
The 55 Plus Centre will remain closed until at least Aug. 31. (Ian Kaufman,

THUNDER BAY – Patrons of the 55 Plus Centre will have to wait a little longer to return to the facility. Thunder Bay city council approved a plan to keep the centre closed through Aug. 31 last week.

Dana Heinrich oversees the facility as the city’s supervisor of community programs for older adults. She said the increased vulnerability of seniors to COVID-19 and traditionally lower summertime attendance at the centre accounted for the extended closure.

“Summertime is our slowest period,” she said. “Seniors like to go outdoors, do gardening, go to their cottages, so we don’t have our full slate of programs running anyway. I don’t want to say it was an easier decision, but a more logical decision.”

Around 250 people would normally use the centre on an average summer day, Heinrich said – about half of the attendance in other seasons. The facility, located on River Street, offers a wide range of activities such as art and fitness classes, as well as a library and café.

The centre closed March 14 over COVID-19 concerns. Like most indoor activities, programs at the centre will look significantly different when the centre reopens its doors.

The centre will reduce capacity limits for many programs to allow physical distancing. Heinrich added the centre will encourage patrons to use masks in hallways and other areas where distancing is a challenge, though it will not mandate them.

The centre’s café will initially reopen only for takeaway service.

Heinrich said she hopes patrons will be patient as the centre adapts to the realities of life under the pandemic.

“It’s just going to be a new way of thinking about what we can do,” she said. “Hopefully people will be patient with that, knowing we’re not going to be able to service the numbers we normally do.”