Smoke doesn’t keep Douglas seniors from center |

Smoke doesn’t keep Douglas seniors from center

by Caryn Haller

Ron Ruggiero, 71, tries on a mask on Friday at the Douglas County Senior Center.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

While smoke from the Rim fire has disrupted most peoples’ plans, it hasn’t slowed Douglas County seniors down a bit.

The dining room at the Douglas County Senior Center was running at normal capacity Friday for lunch.

“They still need to eat. We do 300 meals a day no matter what, and the rest goes into Meals on Wheels,” said Tammy McComb, food service supervisor. “They’re safe inside and they spend their day here. This is like their home away from home.”

Although the senior center was handing out masks to seniors, Ron Ruggiero, 71, was giving away N95 particulate respirators.

“It’s real thick and has a special breathing filter so hardly any of the bad stuff in the air gets through. It has a washable face plate,” he said. “I gave one to a lady on oxygen in a wheelchair, and the next day her daughter said she has asthma and wanted one, too.”

DART transportation coordinator Linda Skaggs said the smoke isn’t keeping many seniors home.

“I have had some call in and cancel because of the quality of the air, but it’s sporadic,” she said. “Everybody’s saying how bad it is out there. They’d rather be indoors than out, but they don’t want to stay home either.”

Gardnerville resident Hannah Glenn, 95, has been on oxygen for five years, and only leaves the house to have lunch at the senior center.

“I’m on it all the time. Without it I couldn’t make it,” she said. “The senior center has been a godsend to us.”

Hannah’s husband, Dub, was in high spirits Friday.

“I smoked for 55 years, so the smoke don’t bother me a bit,” the 90-year-old joked. “We can’t all stay inside, we’ve got to go outside and breathe this stuff up.”

Bea White, 89, was thankful to have the senior center as refuge from staying at home.

“The fact we have the senior center to come to five days a week really helps,” she said. “After raising our children in Southern California in the smog, this is not affecting me.”

Travis Lee said he has given away about two dozen masks since Aug. 22.

“It’s been good to be able to provide them if they want it,” he said. “There is controversy in the medical field whether they are helpful or not helpful. You should go to your doctor to assess if you need one.”

He also offered suggestions for living with the smoke.

“Check with your doctor and stay indoors,” he said. “In your car, turn on max A.C. to shut the dampers down, so you don’t get outside air.”