HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Senior centers, critical to socialization for older people, have been closed throughout the Tri-State Area for more than a year, but on Thursday, Hoboken’s senior center opened up again.
CBS2’s Meg Baker was there as thankful people caught up and got back into the community.READ MORE: COVID-19: Experts Say Delta Variant Spreads Quickly And Is Dominant Strain In Under-Vaccinated Areas
Friends hugged and saved seats for those they haven’t been able to socialize with for months.
“I am glad that this is open because I was very bored. I’m happy to be back here. It’s the most wonderful place,” one person said.
Hoboken’s senior center closed March 10, 2020.
As seniors isolated in their homes, the city provided daily COVID testing and door-to-door vaccinations. Mayor Ravi Bhalla says now 95% of seniors are vaccinated, and it’s safe to gather again.
“I know it wasn’t easy, but you did it and we made it, and it’s a beautiful thing and I’m so happy to celebrate it with you all,” he said at Thursday’s reopening.
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Many of the seniors who spoke to CBS2 called each other family.READ MORE: 'Diaphragm Law' Banning NYPD Officers From Applying Pressure To Suspect's Torso Struck Down
“We’re like sisters. We go way back,” 88-year-old Catherine DeMatteo said.
“We had to learn how to live in the house,” 79-year-old Lillian Schroeder said.
DeMatteo was born and raised in Hoboken. The senior center was part of her everyday routine with Schroeder.
“All the time, every day, five days a week,” Schroeder said. “We play bingo. We have lunch here. We come and sit and talk.”
Norma Lazzu is 73 years young. She says the center keeps their minds going and keeps them active.
“If you turn  around, 37, that’s my age. If you turn it around,” she said. “This is a just a beginning, beautiful beginning and I thank God because we are still alive, amen.”
The grand reopening celebration included barbecue, a Frank Sinatra impersonator and a lot of happy people thankful to be out and about in the community they love.MORE NEWS: New York's COVID State Of Emergency Set To Expire Thursday
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.