Abbotsford Seniors Centre: ever present, ever changing

By Pat Goyeche

Isabel Gonzalez’s classes in conversational Spanish, aerobics and Zumba have continued online at Abbotsford throughout the pandemic. Registration is ongoing.   Photo: Joseph Jodoin

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

Abbotsford Seniors Centre is no exception. Last March, we were planning our usual spring registration when we realized we had to shut down with little or no warning. Everyone had to deal with the growing reality of the severity of the virus and, in our case, its effect on seniors in the community.

The verb “to 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 well-being of our clients, members and volunteers. Are you living alone?  Can someone bring your groceries?  Do you have a support network?

To pursue these questions, we mobilized staff and our wonderful volunteers who made phone contact with members and clients. That initial check-in grew into a phone tree that has been maintained throughout the 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 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 is still a very effective means of communication with our clientele, but we needed to connect in a new way to be able to offer engaging programming that took account of COVID-19.

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

What started with and continues to be a wish to “see” family and friends we couldn’t visit in person quickly morphed into a way of engaging in treasured pastimes like keeping 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 Gonzalez that was shared on our website. While it was a new format, it was also familiar for our patrons to have Gonzalez take them through their usual routines. This became the bedrock of keeping engaged and connected when nothing was normal.

Gonzalez, 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 practising their language skills. That interest and willingness paved the way for our first set of virtual programs using Zoom.

Zoom, like pivot and Google, has become a common verb. We Zoom with our family and friends, and we Zoom to practise Spanish, write memoirs, take art courses, dance, perfect our yoga positions and engage in myriad 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 way to go as seniors living independently in the community wait their turn to receive the vaccination against COVID-19. The challenges of the past year for individual seniors have been immense and at times overwhelming, but many have pivoted, flexed and changed their ways enough to keep them both safe and engaged.

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

Our March-April programming schedule boasts over 30 different classes to choose from.  Registration for members for classes starting in March began in February but is ongoing. Anyone 55+ is encouraged to become a member and join in. Call Abbotsford to connect.

Abbotsford is your Seniors Active Living Centre for adults 55+. It houses the community programs of The Glebe Centre Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit, organization which includes a 254-bed long-term care home. Find out more about our services by telephoning 613-230-5730 during regular business hours or by checking out all of The Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website

Pat Goyeche is coordinator of community programs at Abbotsford.

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