Saddened members of a popular Bognor Regis centre have said their goodbyes – for now.
The 1,000 or so individuals who belong to the Laburnum Centre will be without its mix of social and learning activities for the foreseeable future.
The centre’s operator, Age UK West Sussex and Brighton & Hove, closed its doors last Friday as the response to the coronavirus pandemic intensified. Some of the final members to enjoy the facilities at the Lyon Street building for the over-50s were John and Margaret Lloyd.
The Shripney residents joined about three months ago – and were delighted by their decision.
Mrs Lloyd, 75, said: “It’s a very good centre. It’s disappointing it’s closing. Coming here is doing me a lot of good.
“I go to the gym here a couple of times a week and it has really helped my mobility. It is far better than it was when we lived in Milton Keynes before we came here.”
She said she was also keen on the centre’s Knit & Natter group.
Mr Lloyd, 78, said: “For £65 a year, there is a lot here. The company is good and the people here are really nice. You can do anything you want. You don’t have to belong to groups.”
The couple had been calling into the centre for a cup of coffee as an alternative to sitting at home before the closure.
Pilates fan Christine Buchanan, 76, of Felpham, was the only member of her class to turn up last Thursday.
“I’ve been a member for three years and I come here three times a week,” she said.
“It’s convenient and a fantastic place to come to. I enjoy the classes.
“It’s only going to be closed for a while. Of course, I’m looking forward to coming back when it opens again. I will miss it.”
Gym-goers Paul Stevens and Liz Reynolds, both 56, of Rose Green, use its expanded facilities to keep fit.
Mr Stevens said: “It is a really brilliant facility. We will certainly miss it. There are people who have got to know through coming here.”
Ms Reynolds said attending the centre had boosted their fitness levels.
Age UK West Sussex and Brighton & Hove’s chief executive, Helen Rice, said the charity would adapt its services to continue to offer emotional and practical help to older people in the area which it served.
This is likely to include phone calls to help those self-isolating to combat loneliness. A service to collect and deliver medication or groceries was also set to be launched.
“This is such a difficult time, but our team are going to be working incredibly hard to help as many of our older community as possible in the coming weeks and months,” she said.