With continued senior center shutdowns and social distancing, social isolation is now a necessity for the safety of seniors, but it can have serious impacts on their social, mental, and physical health. This is why online group activities and programs are the answer when it comes to senior centers’ activity needs.
Though senior centers work to keep residents active and engaged at all times, the current suspension of in-person activity operations is creating a challenge. Many communities didn’t have contingency plans in place to deal with the safety measures COVID-19 requires, and this has affected the wellbeing of their residents.
These policies are helping to keep the elderly safe from infection, but they’ve left senior centers and their activity directors searching for solutions that keep their residents safe from the effects of social isolation as well.
At televeda, it’s our mission to reduce social isolation in older populations through our engaging live streaming services, and we’ve been able to help communities and residents since before and after COVID-19.
The world is more interconnected than ever before, yet isolation is a growing problem that is a huge strain on economic and healthcare bodies. Managing loneliness and social isolation can lengthen seniors’ lives.
Providing online group activities for seniors during COVID-19 gives them the chance to make friends at a time when their socialization opportunities are limited.
Though social isolation can impact any member of the population, older adults and the elderly are significantly at higher risk.
The most efficient answer to these issues is using online activity and live streaming resources. Providing virtual socialization allows seniors to stay healthy without the risk in-person socialization can bring.
Though little can replace face-to-face interaction, group live streaming activities allow for safe socialization and help mitigate feelings of loneliness. Live streaming is sensory, interactive, and accessible. Even those with physical or mental limitations can enjoy using the technology from wherever they are.
Taking advantage of online programming activities for groups is necessary if senior centers want to continue their community experience with as little interruption as possible.
Many communities had robust life enrichment programs before COVID-19, and understandably didn’t want this engagement to change. But, just because Facebook Live, YouTube, or Zoom is inexpensive, doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement, or the best online programming option for senior residents and communities to use.
You want to make sure the online platform or programming that you're using is created for older adults in mind. For example, at televeda, we don't use complicated passwords or logins, and it takes just one click to join one of our classes! This easy-to-use platform helps even the most technology-shy seniors participate and have fun
You should also make sure the programming is accessible. That means even those with mobility issues or those that are hard of hearing or vision can still enjoy your classes.
This could include chat features, adjustable volumes, the opportunity to turn your audio and video on and off, and more. Additionally, having constant tech support--especially teams that are comfortable and trained to work with seniors--is a huge help. You don’t want to have to reach out to Zoom or Facebook HQ every time one of your members has a question.
Now let's dive into the best online group activity ideas and programs for older adults that you can start at your senior center today.
Great for all aspects of seniors health, bingo is the way to go! Bingo already made the transition to the online world before social distancing made it necessary, but some of your seniors may not have had this virtual experience yet.
Bingo isn’t just a simple game. It also helps with practicing memory recall, improving cognitive function, decreasing risk of mental illness, accelerating recovery and recuperation, and enhances coordination & reflexes.
It’s important to make your virtual bingo games engaging, exciting, and personalized. Keep the energy high, make eye contact through the camera, and use your participants’ names when you talk to them.
Also, make sure there is interaction beyond the host calling out the numbers. The benefits of group activities really shine when the members forge connections outside of the group.
Read more here on how to host the best virtual bingo game for a senior group activity!
What is one of the other most popular group activities, online and in person? Trivia!
Trivia is a great opportunity to flex your mental muscles, get a little competitive, and enjoy the company around you. And virtual trivia allows for healthy, safe socialization where the players can have fun and make friends from the safety of their homes.
When playing virtual trivia, you’re going to want to do some planning. This includes: determining whether people are playing in teams or individual; what live streaming platform to use to play; creating the game specific for seniors.
What genres and book topics do your senior members find the most interesting?
Time to make a book club to talk about a favorite story, poem or just enjoy a friendly banter!
You can set up a book club in a variety of ways. For example, you can have members all read the same book or chapter before the meeting. Then, everyone will discuss their thoughts during the book club.
You could also have a member lead the book club discussing some book recommendations that the other members can read on their own later.
You can also do a session where everyone brings their own favorite book to discuss. Or, you determine some books in common the members read, and split them up into groups based on those books. Groups can change each week!
Another fun activity is having your seniors share some of their life experiences or stories in a group setting.
Again, you can do this a couple of different ways. One, you choose one member per session to share stories from throughout their life, almost lecture-style, and have the other members discuss them.
Two, you can create a “life-lesson theme” and have members bring their own stories that connect with the theme and share them all together.
Three, you can have a free-for-all where members come and share any story they would like during the session.
No matter what you decide, this is a great way to forge connections between your residents. In addition to members interacting in a group setting, they are also sharing experiences that can help them create lasting connections. And that is the goal of all of these group activities for seniors!
Plus, there will be so many fun and funny stories for you to enjoy as well.
Several art, cultural, and environmental institutions have been supplying live streams to viewers worldwide since even before the pandemic started.
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. And get creative! Find live streaming sessions of nature activity, virtual reality tours through the world's greatest sites, or listen to a live local orchestra performance.
While these activities are fun to do as a group no matter what, make sure that the group members are able to interact and discuss what's going on. This may happen organically, but if not, make sure to come prepared with some discussion questions.
When planning group activities for the elderly you want to make sure there is something for everyone at. But, you don't want to make certain activities on accessible for a large group.
For example, we host some more advanced art classes, but we also host art classes that anyone can join. For example, we have a monthly Zentangle class. Zentangle is an art form that combined meditative drawing with design.
A Zentangle class is for everyone to explore self-expression and find meaningful friendships within a supportive and creative community. Whether you are a seasoned artist or a beginner just looking to explore, this is the place!
Of course, you don't have to only do a Zentangle! You can find other introductory are classes that everyone is comfortable to join.
For example, some easy, fun crafts would be a great session idea! Just make sure you either supply the materials, or let them know what they'll need prior to the class.
At Televeda, 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.
This group activity might require a bit more planning. For example, you may need an instructor, teaching materials, etc., but learning a new language can be a great way to build bonds between your seniors.
If you don't want to have a specific instructor, you can use language learning apps such as Duolingo, Drops, or Busuu, which can be great for individuals to use on their own and then practice together in a weekly group session.
Learning a new language inherently requires individuals to speak to one another, and even bond over the challenges of the new language and culture they're learning! In addition to being interactive, language learning has other brain functionality benefits for any age.
In addition to learning a language, senior citizens would also benefit from group education classes.
Continuing education courses are a great 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.
You can find a teacher that will host weekly or monthly classes on a specific topic; find online courses for your seniors to attend and then meet to work on that's together, just like a study group; or sign up for a Master Class series that you can broadcast throughout your senior center.
Getting seniors to collaborate and learn about a single topic will encourage them to work together and even socialize outside of class. Having assignments or homework will continue to keep them engaged and coming back to these group activities.
Knowing that they will be continuing to grow and learn throughout a semester or year will encourage them to continue to attend the classes. Especially if their new-found friends are learning and talking about new information every week!
Whatever method you choose, be comfortable experimenting. Some classes you might select might not be the best fit, but the great thing is that there are so many free e-learning courses these days, so you can always find something new.
And that is that: 9 online group activity and program ideas for your senior center! No matter which activities or programs you decide on, remember that the point is to get your members or residents interacting and engaged.
That means testing out your events, getting feedback, and encouraging socialization throughout the process.
Need some help getting started? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.