Seniors are among the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19. This is not only because of the risk of the virus itself, but also the effects of being socially isolated and the loss of regular, health sustaining activities.
During the pandemic, the YMCA of Metro North is helping seniors in the region cope with the stress and loneliness caused by COVID-19, by keeping people stimulated and to prevent the negative mental and physical health consequences of the pandemic.
In addition to its outreach to check on senior member’s well-being, the YMCA has built a Virtual YMCA and offers free, online workouts for older adults including its signature classes to enhance older adult fitness. Led by instructor Frank Johnson, the online workouts allow seniors to build cardiovascular and muscle strength, as well as improve flexibility and balance, all from the comfort of their homes.
“Although we usually workout at the senior center in a group, the virtual videos will keep our participants active and engaged until we can be back together, “says Johnson. “We also have a special Facebook page so our senior can connect and keep each other motivated as well.”
The YMCA of Metro North Virtual YMCA website has other workouts for seniors and older adults including chair yoga and low-impact aerobics.
Rob Lowell, Executive Director, Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody notes that as a result of the coronavirus emergency, YMCAs are thinking differently about how they deliver healthy activities. Lowell thinks about the YMCA as not only a facility, but a community partner bringing health opportunities to people wherever they may be.
“We started the fitness programs for older adults at the Torigian Senior Center and expanded it to include other senior centers in the region,” says Lowell. “Now that our members are at-home, we have an opportunity to expand our definition of where we can deliver quality health programs to include the online environment as well.”
The Lynn YMCA had just begun to offer YMCA classes for seniors at Greater Lynn Senior Services when the COVID-19 outbreak occurred.
“During this time, it is so important for seniors to remain active in whatever ways they can safely do so,” said Marilyn Long, Director of Community Programs, Greater Lynn Senior Services. “Especially now, we all need to think creatively, and sometimes that means delivering services in new ways. I commend the YMCA for its efforts on behalf of area seniors.”
Older adult workouts are currently two of the three most viewed videos on the YMCA of Metro North YouTube page which has gained more than 1,000 hours of watched video time from viewers and subscribers.
“Personally, I believe the classes offered by our local YMCA has many beneficial and positive aspects,” says Karen DiSessa, participant in the YMCA classes. “It is also a way for people to form friendships that may not have the opportunity to do so. This is especially true for us older folks.”
The YMCA of Metro North will continue to engage its seniors and offer more opportunities to stay connected to its seniors and combat the social isolation many may be experiencing. The association’s virtual offerings are available free to everyone to encourage people to stay active and healthy at home. Kathleen Walsh, President and CEO, YMCA of Metro North says the coronavirus emergency is going to change the YMCA as we know it.
“The YMCA as we know it is being remade,” says Walsh. “We have always adapted to make our services available to the greatest number of people, and seniors are definitely a key priority for us during this crisis. We are innovating as we go, so the new YMCA will become an even more important health partner to our senior members and the community organizations that serve them.”
The Virtual YMCA resources can be accessed at: https://www.ymcametronorth.org/virtualymca/