September 21, 2020

10 Ways to Use Virtual Programs to Engage and Prevent Isolation in Older Adults

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Social isolation is a public health crisis. Staff at senior centers work hard to help older adults travel to the senior center, participate in programs, and stay engaged.

online programming ideas for seniors to beat social isolation
Social isolation–the absence of social contact between an individual and society–is actually as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

If you work with seniors in any capacity, then you know they’re feeling lonely and isolated now more than ever, and it may have crossed your mind to use online technology. 

Virtual and online technology is the most effective way to reach your community and provide the engagement they desperately need for their mental, social, and physical health. It’s also inexpensive and time efficient, since you can reach hundreds of members regardless of geography! Here’s some virtual programming and technology ideas that will help you get started:

10 Virtual Technology & Programming Ideas for Community Centers

1. Virtual Recreation Centers: Connecting Older Adults & Families:

The City of Chandler’s virtual recreation center, Rec At Home, and the City of Maricopa’s, Maricopa Connected, are two fantastic opportunities to find friends and connect with families. Both virtual recreation centers are powered by televëda and bring their most popular recreational programs to members virtually. These virtual recreation centers offer every class one can possibly imagine: Tai Chi, Yoga, Bingo, Karaoke, Trivia, Tours of the Smithsonian Museum, Mt. Washington Observatory, lectures by NASA Scientists, and the list continues! Attendees can learn while interacting in real time with the teachers and the other participants of the class. And by providing offerings for the whole family, seniors can interact with their loved ones online while having fun.  

2. Virtual Support Groups

Support groups can be a great way to feel comforted. Support groups can help adults understand their feelings of loneliness and regain a sense of purpose. And by creating a safe space, they manage isolation two-fold. At televëda, we’ve been hosting support groups for older adults to meet and learn about the different tools they can use to manage life during stressful times. Check out Care.com’s list of support groups for older adults that are organized by different needs and interests.

3. Social Media Live

YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram live are live streaming services showing millions of live games, sports, music, and more. Fortunately, many seniors are already on Facebook and know how to use it, and YouTube has a simple search bar at the top of their pages for its users. Plus, both services are free. However, make sure to keep your seniors safe when using these platforms. The size and options are a great advantage, but the reach of these platforms also leaves them vulnerable to attempts in online scamming. Learn how to best keep your seniors safe online here.

4. Virtual Caregiving

Virtual caregiving can range from live streaming services with live caregivers, technology platforms with remote monitoring systems, or a caregiver like Addison, a 3D caregiver. The Foundation for Senior Living (FSL) uses virtual caregiving to connect their therapists to their clients. Knowing their community needs them even more during this time, they’re now offering their Adult Day Health clients live and interactive recreational classes through televëda.

5. Classic Virtual Online Games

Bingo, Karaoke and Trivia: Turning these much-loved activities into a virtual version allows seniors to do something they love from the safety of their rooms and communities. Read more on how to set up the best virtual bingo, virtual karaoke, and virtual trivia your residents have ever seen!

6. Curated Virtual Programming

At televëda, we provide monthly calendars of curated, expert-led content live streamed on our software we designed specifically to work with vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. Of course, we aren’t just the software or courses: we’re the tech support, consultants, security advisors, expert teachers, content curators, and data analyzers.

We understand that every community is unique, which is why we create data reports tracking wellness and engagement to ensure a positive ROI, and that the vision you have for your center is successful and can best serve your residents. As a community partner, we develop and implement programming that puts you at a competitive advantage among other senior living centers, and allows you and your staff to focus on the core duties and needs of your community.

7. Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants are no longer an idea of the future. Personal gadgets like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Home weren’t specifically created for seniors, but they’ve been making an impact in virtual care. For older adults with memory challenges, Alexa can be a great resource to answer repeated questions, remind users about medication, and alarm setting. These devices can also be used for enjoyment, such as audio books, music, games, and other activities, all which support the health of seniors. Virtual assistants can also help answer medical questions, call for medical assistance, or be used to contact one’s family.

8. Online Gaming

There are many games available for seniors online, from memory and brain games, to online versions of crosswords, sudoku, mahjong, and puzzles. The AARP offers a wide variety of online games, and if seniors have electronic devices, they can download applications like Elevate and Lumosity for some fun brain “workouts” (check out more memory-boosting apps here). Online games—especially the brain-game variety—provide intellectual stimulation, improve memory, and aid in preventing cognitive decline. They’re also fun and interactive, and individual seniors can choose their favorites to play, and even connect with them through friends.

9. Live Streaming Worldwide

Several art, cultural, and environmental institutions have been supplying live streams to viewers worldwide. Zoos, museums, and national parks have been sharing various wonders, and celebrities have even been live streaming concerts and music sets to followers and fans. Provide links and sources for these events, and any resident with an internet connection and device can view them. There are a ton of live, free resource options, and a wide variety to choose from. These lists aren’t exhaustive, but this CNN article has a little something for everyone. Check out this how-to guide on connecting your community televisions with any live stream of your choice.

10. Virtual Education

Continuing education courses may also be a good option for seniors looking to keep their mind sharp and stay engaged. There are tons of websites for seniors to try, and even if not all courses are free, they’ll have great free options. Here are some popular course ideas.

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