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Staying active amid pandemic

Concord Monitor
Published: 4/24/2021 3:00:06 PM

The last year has made staying active tough for many people, but seniors have been hit the hardest, as many in person activities were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Coordinator Rebecca Bukowski for the Concord Parks and Recreation Department said they are feeling hopeful for summer, with less chance of spreading the virus outside and more people now getting vaccinated against the virus.

Bukowski and her husband are both seniors that have searched for ways to stay active and safe during the pandemic. Her husband found playing pickleball was great in the fall when it was outside, but decided to stop during the winter because it was inside and not everyone chose to wear masks. One thing they’ve both done to stay active and fit is swim, which they have had to book ahead of time.

But things are looking up. With warmer weather ahead and more and more vaccinations across New Hampshire, most places are hopeful that they will be able to hold in person activities and classes once again.

The pandemic has meant that many in person activities have been put on hold to keep people safe. And while many places have adapted to the times and have found new ways to connect with seniors and help them stay fit, human connection is something everyone is looking forward to again.

Many places decided to move to virtual class formats like Zoom or YouTube to keep people safe, especially during the winter months where the number of COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire were high.

Over the winter, Concord Parks and Recreation Department started doing classes over Zoom, with indoor walking as the only in-person activity. Bukowski explained that seniors were able to go inside the gym and do laps around the track, with most people opting to wear their face masks. Twice a month in February, they started having frozen takeout meals that were provided by the Community Action Program.

The drawback of the pandemic has been that a lot of the seniors have lost contact with what some places are doing because they don’t have access or understand to use technology to Zoom classes and other information online. But some places have figured out ways to keep in contact.

At Goodlife Program and Activities, they are looking forward to a possible reopening in late spring or early summer depending on the number of COVID-19 cases. For now, they are working with Zoom and YouTube.

Community Outreach Coordinator Katelyn Gagnon explained that they always try to keep things as low cost as possible so anyone can participate. They are currently holding classes via Zoom such as cardio, exercise and yoga classes with estate planning seminars and healthy eating seminars too. If they do reopen, they will still live stream things for those who are not comfortable coming in person.

The Peterborough Recreation Department, also had to figure out how to do everything over Zoom during the winter months. However, Senior Program Specialist Gloria Schultz said things are looking up and reopening things in person is looking likely to happen within the next month or two. The seniors are a social group so the pandemic has been tough on them, Schultz explained. She created a weekly newsletter to keep in touch with them and makes sure to email and call them too. Schultz said she misses them all and is excited to figure out ways for them to safely see each other in person.

The Concord YMCA has held many classes over Zoom and is planning to have more outside classes this summer to practice social distancing.

Wellness Coordinator Heather Hildum said they are adding back a popular senior fitness program, Silver Sneakers. They are also looking to add classes on diabetes prevention and disease and cancer recovery. The YMCA has had a lot of participation from seniors during the pandemic, but Hildum said that many seniors are now getting “Zoomed” out from all the months of Zoom classes. With many now vaccinated, they are ready to start coming in person again as soon as they can do so safely.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Granite State College has held all of their classes via Zoom since the start of the pandemic, but soon they plan to open some in person classes.

Program Director Jane Fletcher said they will be having fall outdoor classes August through September with COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. And in October and November they will resume a few in person classes with COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. “Now that people have gotten vaccinated, they’re really eager to get back in the classroom,” Fletcher explained. “OLLI is also a social outlet for a lot of older adults,” she said, they are all excited to see their friends in person once again.

Fletcher explained that the OLLI program is “intended to get people out of the house. It’s intended to have people remain social and active. That’s the thing that really is a contributor to good brain health.” But while they will have in person classes again, they will also have Zoom classes as well for people who prefer that.

While many have seen success over Zoom and YouTube, virtual formats haven’t been possible everywhere, so being able to be in person again is vitally important for some.

Greater Hillsborough Senior Services has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic because they rely on trips to help seniors stay active and haven’t been able to do any trips since the pandemic began.

Chairwoman Marianne Hammond said they had to shut down all of their board meetings and trips when the crisis began and much of their fundraising has been on hold too. They have a bus for taking people on shopping trips that sits 15 people but capacity has been reduced to 6 people for social distancing. Many seniors rely on the bus for shopping if they give up their cars.

But there might yet be a light at the end of the tunnel, Hammond said they have a board meeting soon to discuss a possibility of reopening their luncheons on a limited basis.


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