Shelton seniors gather for luau to close out summer

SHELTON — Hawaiian shirts, flip flops and leis were the order of the day at the Shelton Senior Center Friday. 

The center, which has returned to full programming, finally brought back its end-of-summer luau event, with more than 180 seniors gathering for food, fun, dancing, and the popular best dressed contest. 

“I’m really excited about this,” center Director Doreen Laucella said about the luau, which had not been held since 2019 because of the pandemic. “We are all here for them — the seniors. They need this, they’ve been waiting for these kinds of events to come back again.” 

The Shelton Senior Center, run by Laucella, seven staffers and about 30 volunteers, has a membership of about 2,500 seniors. Laucella said between 300 and 400 people are served by the center each day, through various programs and the daily lunch. 

Laucella said the programming has been back for months, but these larger events like the luau have remained on hold until now. 

“Mentally they need this,” Laucella said about her seniors, who she calls her extended family. 

Laucella said she and her staff never stopped working for seniors, even at the beginning of the pandemic, when many such locations were forced to close. 

In the months that followed, the center reopened with smaller programs with allowed for social distancing and masking. Laucella recalls the chess club, in which she would have two members play each other while socially distanced, each with their own board. 

She said she and her staff would visit and contact isolated seniors to make sure they were taken care of and fed. 

“We are a team here. It’s all of us coming together for our seniors,” Laucella said. “We’re moving forward, and everyone is so excited. This is a great way to kick off the programs to come this fall and winter.”