Despite COVID-19, seniors find ways to stay connected
The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for seniors in their daily life in Sammamish. State-mandated social distancing guidelines have reduced connections and communications among the senior community. To fill the void, senior centers and other organizations have started to provide their members with online learning, informative seminars about COVID-19 and meaningful discussions to keep the community engaged and connected to each other.
The India Association of Western Washington (IAWW) in Sammamish, which aims to provide and facilitate civic, cultural and educational services for seniors, changed their daily in-person fitness activities to virtual programs.
“IAWW used to provide senior Pop-Up programs for them, so the seniors could meet and have a full 2 hours indoors with a fitness class, tea, refreshments and memory games,” Nanda Tewari, the Senior Services Coordinator for IAWW, said.
The sudden lockdown interrupted IAWW’s programming and limited their in-person contact. IAWW was forced to cancel all outdoor activities, and shifted focus to online education and information sharing, including some online art activities. The newly added virtual programs aim to maintain those vital social connections their members cherished.
“We didn’t want seniors to be more isolated during the time of isolation,” Lalita Uppala, executive director of IAWW, said.
The informational COVID-19 presentations that IAWW offer are often delivered by doctors and public health professionals, and include details on prevention, treatment, testing and news updates about the pandemic. IAWW also focuses on educating seniors about American culture and history.
“Most members of the IAWW senior programs are immigrants from foreign countries, so many of them have difficulties communicating or building close relationships with their children or grandchildren who grew up in America,” Uppala said.
This includes sessions on American history, as well as speakers who teach about ways to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. For instance, attendees learn about avoiding the use of offensive words or behaviors that may insult different ethnicities.
As a cross-cultural organization, IAWW values immigrants’ social status and treatment. The recent Black Lives Matter protests inspired newly added discussions on racism and inequality through the lens of immigrant history. South Asian Americans Together WA(SAATWA), an advocacy group, was brought in to co-host an online event on racism, oppression and community action in the Pacific Northwest.
Another organization, the Sammamish Senior Center, serves the age 60-plus population in Sammamish. The senior center has pivoted to focusing on ways to reduce feelings of isolation among its members.
To optimize the learning experiences for seniors, the senior center places its effort on learning and delivering what their members need the most.
“Segmentation,” Tom Ehlers, a board member for Sammamish Senior Center, said. “Know your audience and know what you want to offer. Figuring out what the group might be interested in is essential.”
To reach that goal, the Sammamish Senior Center has started an online book club that seniors can participate in from the comfort of their homes. So far, they have held two Book Club discussions. To maintain a connection with the local community, the book club often chooses books that are related to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest. The latest book selection for the week was Deadline Man by Jon Talton, who is a columnist for the Seattle Times.
The senior center also collaborates with the King County Library System on a series of online seminars called the “Wisdom Café.” The first seminar was about gratitude. During the meeting, members learned and discussed what gratitude is, how to be grateful, and how to enjoy the moment as much as possible. Many inspiring ideas were shared during the meeting.
Seeing the great feedback and outcome of the first Wisdom Cafe, a second learning seminar called ‘Futuring’ Realistically” was organized for members to share their thoughts about the future. To look forward to that future, many members starting trading ideas of what they want to do after the lockdown ends. Now, they have a long list of ideas such as spending more time with grandkids, playing board games and continuing virtual calls with distant relatives.
With COVID-19, seniors were forced to adapt to online and virtual mediums to maintain connections with their community. Fortunately, with volunteer support and free, senior-friendly programs, they have a reason to maintain a positive attitude while they wait for this pandemic to end.
To find out more about the India Association of Western Washington in Sammamish, please contact Nanda Tewari via email (email@example.com) or phone (253-334-9989).
For more information about the Sammamish Senior Center, or to get on its distribution list or participate in the Wisdom Café virtual events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.