By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Starting a new job has a learning curve, but starting one during a pandemic is a much bigger challenge. Liz Tretiak was named the new Northborough Senior Center Director in April and hasn’t had a chance to see the Center in full operation due to COVID-19 restrictions. Although she came on board under unusual circumstances, she said she feels like she landed her dream job.
Her past positions as Director of Client Services with Bay Path Elder Services in Marlborough and Littleton Director of Elder and Human Services helped her to establish a network of resources throughout the Metrowest area.
She is grateful for being a part of a very strong, collaborative and professional team of administrators in Northborough.
“I love that the department heads across the board have all jumped in to help me find my feet here,” Tretiak said.
She loves the Senior Center building and said it’s a community asset, but right now the pandemic is limiting what can be offered to the town’s 3,800 residents over 60 years old.
Continuing outreach is a priority.
“Winter itself brings a lot – bad weather, fear of falling, seasonal depression,” she said. “It means we have to ramp it up here and take our outreach to another level; enlist more volunteers to spread the word that we are here to help.”
Tretiak said overall everyone is faring well despite some feelings of loneliness, isolation and frustration. She has not encountered any major crisis, but is ready to troubleshoot anything.
She is co-host of the Northborough Cable Access show Frank & Mary in Northborough, which is geared towards senior citizen issues.
“Not being able to meet people is my number one challenge,” she said. “You can develop connections with people virtually and plan activities, but you miss that casual social interaction of seeing someone pass by you every morning.”
Tretiak’s creativity has helped to run 22 ongoing virtual programs, including fitness and wellness classes, legal clinics, and support groups. Other clubs met outdoors, while the weather cooperated.
The importance of seeing people in person was evident as groups, like the Dull Men’s Club, met in the rain outside with umbrellas and folding chairs.
Currently, the Center is busy offering assistance during Medicare open enrollment. Tretiak hopes to be able to do something special each month like a grab and go lunch or have a recorded speaker event.
New collaborations include Book and a Bite sponsored by Wegmans and the Northborough Library and delivering ice melt products with the help of the Northborough Rotary Club.
Tretiak has goals to reopen the Center’s Bistro @ 119 in some capacity when COVID is more under control and to improve outdoor space, as part of her “senior center without walls” effort.
“I would love to maximize what we have for our outdoor space and get something set up – tents, shade structures, picnic tables – for more pleasant outdoor meetings,” she said.
Moving forward, Tretiak is looking for volunteers with expertise, talent or passion to share to run a virtual class or discussion.
She also wants to bring awareness that they can help people with aging parents or caregivers of elderly people.
As a member of the sandwich generation herself with two toddlers and aging parents, she is understanding of the challenges that presents.
“There is no issue that is too big or too small,” she said. “There is no wrong door; we will not turn you away. Don’t hesitate; we are friendly.”