WINDSOR, ONT. -- After more than a year of eating in isolation, in their rooms, senior citizens living in long-term care and retirement homes can now eat their meals together.

Connie Giglio’s mother lives at Heron Terrace where they have installed big plexi-glass barriers at all tables.

“They’re together, but apart safely,” she says. “Even my own mom is showing more energy, and more interest, and more vitality, She only enjoyed breakfast in the dining room because it wore her out getting to the dining rooms!”

Gene Forester, 80, says its “really great” to be back in touch with her friends after a year of living apart in the same building.

“I remembered the faces and people at my table. I remembered exactly who they were. They did not remember me,” she chuckled. “And that’s okay.”

The barriers on each table extend over the edge of the table and go much higher than the residents heads to keep everyone safe.

Administration at Heron Terrace worked through multiple different formats of barriers before choosing the one they rolled out into all five of their dining rooms.

“I don’t like that, but not supposed to say that eh,” says Janet Poirier, 89. “Its strange but I gotta get used to it.”

At 92 years old, Audrey Hart says she’s glad to be back with her friends for her meals. It means she doesn’t have to sneak out to see them.

“I sometimes slip into my friends room. Oh, don’t repeat that," she laughs. "I slip in or she’ll slip in you know but now we don’t get in trouble for it.”

Staff at Heron Terrace tell CTV News the return of communal dining does make their jobs easier because they can feed all their residents around the same time.

But they are also noticing that residents are eating more food and drinking more fluids than when they were forced to eat alone.

“Its a breath of fresh air for us,” says PSW Jennifer Cloutier. “To know that we’re finally in kind of a safe zone where we can take care of our residents the way we want to take care of them... the way that we strive to take care of.”

Housekeepers like Lisa Harris say they’ll now be able to give their residents rooms and even more thorough cleaning while they are away for their meals.

Harris, like many others, is also doing double-duty working as a PSW to help during the pandemic.

“They’ve been in their rooms for over a year now. So to actually be able to sit at the table with their table mates that they sat with a year ago... you can see the happiness. The joy.”

Staff also tell CTV News their residents are happier as they reminisce about all that has gone on since early 2020 when COVID-19 hit.

“The last year they haven’t been able to do that with anyone...Maybe over the telephone. So now they’re all sitting there, together. They’re sharing their stories...They’re laughing and their socializing.”

Gene Forester sums life up this way “We’re starting to have some good times.”