SOLVANG, Calif. - At 97 years old, Lerie Bjornstedt had a new experience - evacuating from her home in Ojai last week because of the Thomas Fire.
She's currently staying in Solvang. "I had about 10 minutes to gather everything together and we left. When the air gets better, I'll come home," Bjornstedt explained.
For now, she's is making fast friends at the the Solvang Senior Center. The staff there is helping evacuated seniors like Bjornstedt feel safe and comfortable as the fire rages on.
"The nice thing is that when they are here, they're together with people and they feel safe; they can discuss things that maybe upset them we can share tips and they can be together," said Executive Director Ellen Albertoni.
Jacques Fisher is a regular at the senior center. He says he comes in part for the food, telling us: "Well the lunches are terrific I had a lunch every day I got here and never complained a bit."
Getting to spend time in the company of people from his generation is a nice reprieve from the fire too. "Oh yeah it takes your mind off it a little bit but the problem is we come in and talk about the fire anyhow (laughs) it changes your perspective I guess," Fisher said.
The center had to cancel outdoor activities like Thai Chi classes due to the smoke and ash so the consistency of everything else is extremely important.
"Being together is very important for them. It kind of reminds me of when we're younger - young children need to be kept on schedule and as you grow older [that creates] a sense of security," Albertoni said.
The Solvang Senior Center is open to those age 55 or older, Monday through Friday.