Gabe Szvoboda was a regular at the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre before the pandemic.
The 71-year-old would play table tennis, badminton, and bridge, and take yoga and painting classes.
He went back when the centre reopened on Oct. 5 with limited numbers. One of the table tennis players made a weekly schedule so everyone knew which days they could play.
They had three tables set up across the gym with two players each, for a maximum of six at a time.
Edwin Chong, the 75-year-old who created the schedule, said people enjoyed playing again. “Especially for seniors, it’s really tough to get any kind of physical activity,” he said.
But when the city announced late Nov. 15 that many recreational programs would be cancelled once Hamilton entered the province’s “red zone,” some of the seniors were “disappointed.”
“It came very sudden, so there was no indication whatsoever this might come,” Szvoboda said. “We heard of the problem over the weekend and suddenly Monday we could not register anymore.”
The city cancelled all fall registered recreation programs, including swimming lessons, fitness programs, sports, and general interest programs. The city also cancelled gym, sport, and fitness drop-in programs including table tennis, pickleball, badminton, basketball, and other activities.
“I felt there was no reason to do it because private facilities are open,” Szvoboda said. “We adhere to the rules and regulations and the protocols that they set.”
The provincial measures for the red zone allow for gyms and fitness studios to have up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, with sports and recreational programs in multiplexes restricted to 10 people per room indoors and 25 outdoors. Team sports are not allowed, except for training.
The results of a city survey released this week showed a drop in resident satisfaction for senior services.
Terry Quan, who’s 73 and another table tennis player, said the games were a way to stay active and connected.
“The wife and I are reluctant to go anywhere … We just end up staying home or I take the dog for a walk,” said Quan.