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Active Older Adults: We're Better Together!

“During [these] difficult 7 months of sheltering-in-place, the Y has helped me to keep me in shape and stay socially engaged. Every morning I look forward to the Y virtual exercise classes. The teachers are all excellent and caring and all have different programs to make every session interesting and challenging. They are very supportive of seniors and encourages everyone to do what they can.” -Helen Eng

On Thursday, November 17, 2022, groups of our Active Older Adults (AOA) left the Bay Area early morning to head to their destinations for the day. From Richmond District to Bayview YMCA, our AOA program offers opportunities for seniors to stay active and grow in spirit, mind and body while meeting new people and forming lifelong connections and friendships. Funded by the City of San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services, it provides wellness and social activities through classes, luncheons, events and trips for adults ages 50 and older.

While classes and social activities happen frequently throughout the month, events and trips are planned and determined ahead of time and happen roughly every 2-3 months. These activities have become important because they provide spaces for our AOA members to be in community with others while enriching their social and emotional well-being through exercise, exploration, culture and art. While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the many ongoing conditions that have heavily impacted youth and families, according to Sara Frueh's Pandemic Isolation and the Elderly: A Doctor Reflects on the Impacts, “...[its] arrival left [seniors] who lived alone even more isolated than before, and cut off those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from family and friends...” (National Academies).

COVID-19 and Isolation 

“Even before COVID-19, about one-quarter of Americans over age 65 were socially isolated, and more than 40 percent of people of over age 60 reported feeling lonely.” -Frueh 

Last year, our AOA walks were launched by Y staff member, Tony Ortiz, our AOA Engagement Coordinator at Richmond District YMCA. These walks would consist of about 12 walkers that would meet up as a group on Wednesdays at different locations and end their routes learning about upcoming AOA events. Because of isolation and lack of social interaction throughout the pandemic, these walks allowed seniors to be together and stay socially engaged. Although the walks ended earlier this year, our AOA trips launched this past summer. These trips offer our members opportunities to travel around and outside of San Francisco for the day, visiting different districts and cities while participating in various activities.

Fun in the Bay  

Our AOA members at Mission YMCA have participated in a few trips throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. From attending the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker to visiting Half Moon Bay’s Annual Pumpkin Festival to checking out the new Diego Rivera exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, our members got to enjoy these fun community events together. 

Recently, our Marketing and Communications (MarCom) team was invited to join two trips: High Hill Ranch Apple Orchard in Placerville and Lesher Center for the Arts exhibit in Walnut Creek. Some of our staff got to catch up with Tony and several of our AOA members to talk about their experiences with our program as well as how it has made an impact on their day-to-day lives.

An Apple a Day 

For this end-of-the-year trip, one bus left around 8:00am from Stonestown Family YMCA’s annex to head to Placerville, California for the High Hill Ranch Apple Orchard. AOA members from Richmond District and Chinatown joined Stonestown for a day of food and holiday shopping outdoors. The sun was high and bright, breaking into a field of apple trees and evergreens while the morning air felt cool and crisp. After the long drive up, members and staff began their visit with a luncheon that came with fresh apple cider for each table and a slice of apple pie a la mode for everyone. It was all delicious. Afterward, there was an opportunity for members to explore and shop around the ranch for treats, trinkets, and treasures. While many dispersed into the outdoors, Tony connected several members to our MarCom staff to learn more about their experiences. Here’s what a member shared: 

"Well, because now that I'm older, I don't drive out of the city. So these field trips are very good, in fact, I got 4 of my friends to join on this field trip because they haven't been out either and they're also elderly. So, it's a treat and they all enjoy it because it's their first time... [this program] gave me a routine..." -Carolyn Chan

Calling for Community 

Taking a trip to the east bay to see the Works on Paper exhibit in Walnut Creek was a rewarding experience of friends gathering for food then moving to the gallery to look at Bedford’s Gallery - The Harmon & Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper. This exhibition displayed 54 African American artists. The artwork contained drawings, etchings, watercolors, pastels, and color screen prints (our personal favorites) that chronicle the lives of Black Americans through scenes of family and community. And that’s what this space feels like, a mixture of family and community that has built their social circle for the past decade together with the 50+ Excursion Emersion group that also went to eat at the Caribbean restaurant Lita down the street.

“We’ve been a part of this group ever since Curves moved from Bayview so long ago. We came here to this group and never looked back,” one community member said.  

The group of over 40 walked from the restaurant to the gallery where they all took a deep dive into the arts, took photos with each other, and explored all the history and culture around them.

Looking Forward 

The Y is a wonderful caring community!  Like Tony says, “[We’re] better together!” -Helen

As humans, we seek social and emotional connections with others. Whether it is a trip or class, our AOA program is important to our communities because it provides spaces where anyone can learn, grow and support each other. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how much isolation is detrimental to our well-being and that no matter what age, we need to stay connected to our communities in order to build a sustainable future for all generations. To learn more about our Active Older Adults program, visit www.ymcasf.org/seniors