March 24, 2021

How Do I Improve the Virtual Classes at My Senior Center?

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The importance of preventing loneliness and social isolation in the older population is more important than ever. Due to life changes with age, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the chance of older adults spending most of their time alone has risen dramatically, leading to increased levels of loneliness. 

And one of the biggest ways that senior centers are currently doing this is using a virtual event in classes. The live streaming and online events are great ways to provide community and connection without risky socialization, they do come with some challenges that are important to figure out for the sake of senior center community members. 


It’s important to host more than a class: it needs to be a successful class. All that might seem obvious, but actually hosting several successful virtual classes can be tough especially when transitioning from all in-person events.


And with the future of senior center activity calendars being full of hybrid classes, knowing how to improve and make the best virtual classes at your senior center is worth the investment. 


At Televeda, that’s our mission: to provide seniors and the elderly  with the best virtual class options. So we want to help make your senior center virtual classes better too! 


What is a Virtual Senior Center Class? 


When we talk about online classes for senior centers, note that we are not talking about videos or recording, and then passive viewing. While that may be nice in a pinch, virtual classes should be live streamed so participants can interact with each other in real time, make connections, and receive all the social benefits. 


If you’re finding your virtual events have low engagement, if they are passive watching, that could be why. 



How Do I Make My Virtual Classes Better at My Senior Center?


Let’s check out the reasons why you may not be seeing success with virtual classes at your senior center, and of course, the solutions to improve your online senior center activities & experience. 



Class Quality 


Class quality is one of the biggest elements of having successful virtual activities at your senior center. You can’t just record a class on live streaming without some preparation first! 


A few elements to consider: 

  • Audio quality & hardware: This is especially important when working with older adults.
  • Video set-up & technology: You need to make sure your video set-up i
  • Class topic/content: Without great content, you can have the best online programming platform or awesome tech support, but it just won’t matter if people aren’t joining the classes (hint: everyone loves bingo). P.S. Check out some great online programming options for seniors here.
  • Teaching style: Keep your energy high, because often you’re the only person your viewers are engaging with, especially if the audience is muted. Make eye contact with the camera, and use participants’ names if you know them. 
  • Class set-up: Even if you’re comfortable with the web conferencing technology you’re using, your users may not be, particularly if they have less experience online. Make sure to review any questions before you start, and be aware that technical issues may flair up during your session. Your virtual class may be some of the only social interaction they are getting that day or week, so make sure they are involved in the class.  
  • Be ready to troubleshoot: Doing a dress rehearsal will help you troubleshoot any potential issues before the live class. Make sure you solve any problems coming from the viewer’s end as well by having a colleague join as a participant. However, issues might arise, and that’s okay. Just stay calm and work through the problem on your end, or with any of your participants.

Your Instructors: 


Awesome in-person instructors don’t always translate well digitally, whether that’s due to instructors’ technical abilities, or their classes on screen. 


For example, one of our recent expert classes was collage-making. Luckily, our expert instructor was prepared and proactive in figuring out the best way to teach the class: by setting up two videos to show an above view and front view of the work, so she could chat with the students while laying out the collage.


So, you need to make sure to work with your instructors to give them, and your members, the best experience possible. 


Look for a few things: 


  • Personality: Instructors should be personable, address attendees by name, and get to know the members beyond the classroom.
  • Positivity: Attitude is huge. Instructors should be positive and bring energy to the class.
  • Patience: Be patient, ensure you're speaking loudly and clearly, and don't be afraid to repeat rules over again.
  • Present: Your instructors should be able to create connections with attendees of your activities. They shouldn’t just show up, they should truly be present! 


We love playing Bingo together at televeda.com



Advertising & Marketing:


Getting the word out about your classes is typically a challenge, since most senior centers work with printed calendars and flyers, which may not offer enough information for how to join all of the classes you’re offering. 


Emailing calendars, sending weekly reminders, and posting all the information on social media can help show your members--and potential members--all of the awesome content your senior center offers. Seniors are more tech-savvy than you think, and they love the text reminders Televeda sends them before class. 


Another great way to get some ~free~ advertising for your class is by having your members host their own classes. They’ll be sure to invite all their friends to watch them teach and share stories, as well as even invite outside family and friends (more potential members). Some of our most popular classes and events have been ideas from Televeda members themselves!


Lack of Resources


Not having enough technical support and management support can cause issues when hosting online classes, especially when working with older populations. 


The need for more staff support (as well as staff comfortable and open to using technology and hosting live streaming classes) was one of the biggest issues we found in our 2020 case study on the acceleration of virtual content.


Zoom Fatigue


Zoom fatigue is an issue because this can lead to low audience engagement or motivation. 

Though little can replace face-to-face interaction, live streaming has many attributes that makes it a great resource. Even those with physical or mental limitations can enjoy using the technology from wherever they are. 


A year ago, we’ve never used the words “Zoom fatigue” but now it’s all too common. With consistent and semi-constant online meetings, using live streaming platforms to catch up with friends, and more, this all-virtual life can take a toll on our minds and bodies. 

Why does online programming fatigue happen? One of the reasons is a change in our non-verbal communication. Humans are inherently non-verbal communicators, which help us analyze and comprehend information in our daily interactions in addition to content. 


But, video conferencing gives us the wrong kind of non-verbal communication. Interactions like extended gazing and face-to-face close-ups have become the norm of multiple meetings every day, while we do get to see body language, clear facial expressions, and even accurate reaction times, which all impacts our ability to communicate. That can be exhausting.


Additionally, using screens constantly can be tough on your body, but prevention is a great way to help! Have your members stand up and stretch mid-call, or just take a break in the middle of the class to chat or have everyone rest their eyes.



No Data Tracking 


As you’re trying out different events and event calendars, you’re going to have to be okay with doing a few experiments to see what works best for your senior center, your staff, and your members. 


A lack of viable metrics to help your senior center design what is working or not will make it more challenging to improve. Data tracking is key for increasing engagement at your senior center or community. No matter what type of activities you are doing, you’re going to want to track and analyze the results of your activity calendars so you can optimize them for engagement, retention, and overall activity attendance.  

We did some data tracking ourselves!

Here are some activity metrics you could (and should!) measure: 

  • How many members attend each class or event
  • Self-reported mood scores before and after class
  • Have specific members stopped attending? Why? 
  • Do instructors enjoy the classes? 
  • Do the members enjoy the instructors?
  • What dates and times perform best for different types of classes?


Continuously tracking your metrics and making improvements is necessary for success. And remember, you might have to experiment a bit. The point is making the changes, and seeing if they work. If they don’t, then just keep working at! 


At Televeda, we understand that every community is unique, which is why we create data reports tracking wellness and engagement.For example, a community we worked with saw an over 900% increase in activity attendance, and another watched residents’ moods improve by over 50%. For more facts and figures (we know some of you love them!), head here. 


Note: it’s important to ask your members for feedback beyond the numbers. What are their favorite classes? What don’t they love? What do they want to see? Community management is key here. 


How Can I Improve My Virtual Senior Center Activities? 


At Televeda, we describe ourselves as a “one-stop-shop” for senior engagement and wellness

 

We’re not just a platform software: Televeda is also the tech support, security advisors, expert teachers, content curators, and data analyzers.

We understand that every community is unique, which is why we provide data reports tracking wellness and engagement to ensure a positive ROI, and that a senior center’s vision will best serve the senior community resident engagement needs. 

 

And by providing a wide array of classes--fitness, education, karaoke, bingo, virtual tours, and more--they speak to every senior’s interests and needs as they foster relationships between seniors, staff, and entire virtual communities.

 

Put simply: we help make your virtual programming for your seniors better! And this mitigate senior isolation and loneliness through improving social health and engagement. Sounds like something you'd be interested in? Contact us today through our consultation form.

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