After Summit Seniors board member Joan Tilden joined the master’s Nordic skiing group on its first day of the season earlier this month, there was one thing she said she’d like to stress to Summit Daily News readers:
“I think the Summit senior community is very conscious of staying safe and healthy during this pandemic,” Tilden said. “And we — all of us — are very cognizant that we must stay connected during this time. The only way we can safely do that right now is to do that outside, socially distanced.
“This has really impacted our lives here. The senior community is very connected here, and that’s why we all live here. As far as I can tell, everyone is being very safe, and we are looking to the outdoors to fill our lives right now.”
Local seniors like Tilden don’t have much of a choice, as traditional activities such as bridge groups, square dancing and the discussion club are all canceled as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. For Tilden and the more than 1,400 other members of Summit Seniors, the reality is they live in a demographic that is “very hard to be isolated,” as Pat Kopystianskyj put it.
Kopystianskyj was frank that the isolation has been tough for her. It’s not easy looking at social media and seeing younger people dub the virus “The Boomer Remover.” That’s why her inclusion in the Summit County Community and Senior Center’s Herd of Turtles hiking group means so much to her. Hiking up Tom’s Baby Trail in Breckenridge to Upper and Middle Flume Trails with other Turtles are experiences she needs right now.
“Personally, it’s been hard,” Kopystianskyj said. “I’m very fortunate to have family here. I have my two grandsons here now doing online school, getting ready for Christmas vacation. But many seniors are alone. They don’t have a spouse or a spouse has passed away. If they don’t have family here, many have to go it alone.”
The Nordic ski and hiking groups are two of the few senior activities that have been able to continue. Along with the Senior Center canceling all indoor activities, all of Summit Seniors’ downhill ski groups, such as the 100-plus-member Loosey Goosey group, have been canceled.
Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Taylor Prather confirmed the resort’s Over the Hill Gang also is not currently operating. Prather said the resort hopes to bring the group back later this season “pending the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“From my own perspective, and friends I ski with and everything, downhill skiing doesn’t seem to be a big part of people’s activities right now,” Tilden said.
Tilden said downhill ski groups, such as Loosey Goosey, traditionally have a weekly happy hour at the Senior Center in winter. Not having it leaves seniors disappointed, Tilden said. She added that the Senior Center has communicated to members that there likely won’t be food or drinks for many months to come.
Other losses this season for the senior community include elements of February’s annual Senior Winter Games. Tilden said all events typically held at Keystone Resort, such as downhill races and ice skating, have been canceled. As for Nordic events, which Tilden operates at the Frisco Nordic Center, a decision will be made in early January.
“My gut feeling is we probably wouldn’t be able to do that because there’s no indoor space at the Frisco Nordic Center,” Tilden said. “There’s a lot of check-in and registration, and the seniors are out there (in the cold) for five hours. They would need to get warmed up somehow.”
To make up for these lost events and recreation groups, Tilden said the Summit Seniors board has created monthly remote events in which members can take part individually. For Thanksgiving, that was a personal 5K Turkey Trot up and down Frisco Main Street. This month was meant to be an event observing Ullr Fest floats around Breckenridge, but that festival was canceled, too. Next month, members are encouraged to meet up with one other Summit Seniors friend, go see the ice castles in Dillon and take a picture to share in the nonprofit’s newsletter. Tilden added that the group hopes to host a parking lot party outside the Senior Center in April.
Another Summit Seniors activity is Carole Hess’ operation of a backcountry ski group that goes out on moderately difficult trips. That said, Hess said she is unsure how many people will show up for backcountry trips when they begin because “we are in uncharted territory with COVID.”