Staying Connected to Senior Citizens During COVID-19

SOLON, Ohio — Keeping senior citizens engaged is vital for their physical and mental health. That’s why Solon Senior Center has gone virtual to keep them connected.

What You Need To Know

  • Senior care and support facilities are coming up with innovative ways to continue serving the most vulnerable population during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Being able to connect with others during COVID-19 helps senior citizens combat social isolation and loneliness
  • Solon Senior Center has been able to shift much of their programming to an online platform

On any given day, up to two hundred senior citizens visit  the Solon Senior Center. Due to COVID19, that number has dropped to zero. And now some of those seniors are signing into YouTube, Zoom, and other virtual platforms to  participate remotely in pastry, paint and fitness classes— just to name a few.

The center’s director Jill Frankel says COVID-19 made virtual interaction with seniors absolutely necessary. 

“We had already had some thoughts together through the years of what we needed to do to be a senior center without walls, and some virtual programming was in our plan, but this certainly accelerated the timeline,” Frankel said.

The senior center’s fitness and choir room has been converted to a recording studio where senior fitness instructor Janet Kennedy teaches gentle yoga and other various fitness classes via livestream throughout the week.

“We see your numbers growing every week of the number of people that are getting on, to be able to see us and, my goal is to make them feel better every day.” Kennedy says.

“Moving joints, feeling better, getting oxygen, moving their body, just feeling like they accomplished something.  That gives them something to look forward to,” said Frankel.

Frankel says being able to connect with others helps senior citizens combat social isolation and loneliness.  

“It can provide both structure and purpose to the day. there’s a time that you need to be there when you go on, there’s other people they’re participating with you, you have the ability to either see them or chat in with them. and that’s really important.” Frankel says

Solon Senior Center has been able to shift much of their programming to online platforms with funding from the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult services. 

Administrator of the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services  Tracey Mason says the efforts being made by the  county, and the senior centers during this time are helping bridge a digital divide – that seemed so large pre- Covid-19. 

“The great thing is it pushed some boundaries that i’m not so convinced we would have tried… like virtual programming. We would have said oh older adults, they’re not ready to participate on a facebook live class or zoom class , and some of them have  some really enjoy it!” Mason says.

She says as senior care during COVID-19 continues to evolve, the division plans to draft a policy to keep successful senior care practices in place. 

“There’s clearly some lessons learned and some of these lessons learned will be sustainable,” said Mason.

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