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Abbotsford Seniors Centre: Ever Present, Ever Changing…

By: Pat Goyeche                                                    March 2021

Here we are one year after COVID-19 changed our day to day way of life.

Abbotsford Seniors Centre is no exception. We were planning our usual spring registration when, like everyone else, we came to understand the need to shut down with little or no warning.  We all had to deal with the growing reality of the severity of the virus and its effects on society and, in our case, on seniors in community.

The verb ‘pivot’ has become the mantra of almost all businesses and organizations over the past year. And pivot we did!  The priority for Abbotsford became both the personal and physical wellbeing of our clients, members and volunteers. Are you living aloneCan someone bring your groceriesDo you have a support network?

To pursue these questions we mobilized staff and our wonderful volunteers who made phone contact with our members and clients.  That initial ‘check in’ grew into a phone tree of volunteers and staff to reach our clientele that has been maintained throughout this past year.   Volunteers, clients and members have made new friends, shared resources and tapped into the tremendous network of resources that Abbotsford staff have at their disposal.  Friendly chats have alerted us to the needs of seniors regarding food security, health, wellness and need for connectivity.

As we began to realize that we would have to ‘live with’ COVID-19 for quite some time, it became apparent that we had to reach our members where they were…at home!

The telephone was and is still a very effective means of communication with our clientele but we needed to connect in a new way, a way in which we could continue offering engaging programming that takes account of the realities of COVID-19.

Our clients, members and instructors were patient and imaginative in experimenting with virtual programming in those early months when for most of us the word ‘zoom’ was still a sound we associated with a speeding car!

What started with and continues to be a wish to ‘see’ family and friends we were not allowed to visit due either to distance or restrictions quickly morphed into a way of continuing to engage in treasured pastimes and keep up with fitness regimes.

Isabel Gonzalez is one of Abbotsford’s many instructors who initiated a way to keep our members engaged and fit.  It started with a Zumba Gold workout video by Isabel that we could share on our website.  While it was a new format it was also so familiar for our patrons to have Isabel take them through familiar routines.  This became the bedrock of keeping engaged and connected when nothing was normal.

Isabel who is originally from Chile has also been facilitating Conversational Spanish classes for Abbotsford for many years.  She and her students were keen to continue practicing their language skills. That interest and willingness paved the way for our first set of virtual programming using Zoom.

Zoom, like Google, has become its own very particular verb.  We ‘Zoom’ with our family and friends and now we Zoom to practice Spanish, write memoirs, take art courses, dance, perfect our yoga positions and engage in a myriad of fitness classes.

Virtual programming is far from perfect and cannot entirely replace the connection, socialization and spontaneity of in person interaction, but it certainly does help keep us connected and motivated.

We still have a ways to go, as seniors living independently in the community await their turn to receive the vaccination against COVID-19.  The challenges of the past year for individual seniors has been immense and at times overwhelming, but many have ‘pivoted’, flexed and changed their ways enough to keep both safe and engaged.

Much gratitude goes to the instructors, facilitators, members, clients and volunteers who have kept the faith and continue to find, partake in and create meaningful activities.  Abbotsford will continue to do its part to keep up with you!

Our March/April programming schedule boasts of over 30 different classes to choose from.  Registration for members will began on February 18th and will be ongoing, with most classes starting the week of March 8th.  Anyone 55+ is encouraged to become a member and join in.  You can join in and do four weeks of class if class size allow.  Call Abbotsford to connect. 613-230-5730

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