In person – but not up close

The in-person Abbotsford exercise program in the Horticulture Building is designed to keep participants safe and socially distanced.   Photo: Pat Goyeche

By Julie Ireton

After months of exercising in the isolation of their own homes via Zoom, several Abbotsford members eagerly met up at Lansdowne Park to work out in the bright, safe expanse of the Horticulture Building with legendary exercise instructor, Joseph Cull.

“He’s everyone’s favourite and we’re so lucky to have him,” said Pat Smart.

She and many other members have missed their regular drop-ins to Abbotsford at the Glebe Centre, across from Lansdowne.

In fact, Smart admits she’s been avoiding exercise since the pandemic was declared in March, but now she’s pleased to have the option of an in-person class.

“It made me feel so much stronger and straighter. Everybody was so glad to be there.”

Forced isolation due to concerns over COVID-19 has been particularly difficult for seniors who’ve been told to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus.

For many, that’s meant avoiding any kind of group activities.

“It’s relaxing and social and I think we need that. It’s good for the soul,” said Smart.

“Joseph was wearing a skirt and using a pool noodle to illustrate the two-metre distance between participants. It was brilliant.”

More programming is being planned for inside the vast Horticultural Building space including an indoor walking program that the city plans to start in October.

Virtual programming continues
Abbotsford continues to offer virtual exercise programs for older adults with access to tablets, smartphones and the internet. Those classes include aerobics, dance, stretch, strength training and yoga.

Beyond physical fitness programs, many seniors are embracing the virtual watercolour and sketching classes, conversational Spanish, device training and book-club chats.

“This will bode well for them as winter approaches,” said Karen Anne Blakely, director of community programs at Abbotsford. Blakely notes that the closure of in-person adult day programs has been difficult for both clients and caregivers, but some are participating in Zoom programs throughout the week. These one-hour programs include seated exercise, trivia questions, music, themed activities and discussions.

“As well, program facilitators are visiting clients on driveways and porches, walking in the neighbourhood being socially distanced and wearing masks, and delivering individualized activity kits to the clients’ homes to help keep clients active and engaged,” said Blakely. A telephone meditation program helps seniors remain calm and focus on relaxation, and more than 40 volunteers continue to regularly call 330 seniors for wellness checks to help those suffering from the loneliness brought on by isolation.

Abbotsford staff follow up to make sure seniors have access to the help they need, according to Blakely.

Snow Go
For seniors who aren’t looking forward to digging out the snow shovels, some city programs may help. “Snow Go” refers seniors and adults with disabilities to contractors who have passed a screening test, are properly registered and insured.

Some senior clients with disabilities and/or low income may also qualify for the city’s Snow Go Assist program that will reimburse up to $250 on the cost of their snow removal.

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 at

Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.

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