Dungog Chronicle

Designing COVIDSafe community enrichment for Aussie seniors this winter

Designing COVIDSafe community enrichment for Aussie seniors this winter

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As Australians prepare for their first winter out of lockdown, there's been a growing dialogue around the value of staying COVIDSafe, both to minimise the strain being placed on our healthcare systems, as well as to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens stay well-protected against the potential long-term health risks that can arise from testing positive for COVID-19.

Seniors are amongst the most vulnerable in our national population, which is precisely why aged care providers and retirement villages across Australia are doing what they can to introduce COVIDSafe enrichment activities and initiatives that are designed to keep seniors safe and connected through what is likely to be another cautious winter.

But how can we reduce the risks of catching COVID-19 for Aussie seniors this year in a way that still allows them to connect with their wider community and loved ones? This is a question with many answers. Here are just a few of the answers designed by families and retirement communities across the country to help bring some joy to Aussie seniors during this chilly season.

Host senior-oriented community events

Many retirement communities are opting to take winter entertainment for seniors into their own hands, by developing seasonal calendars that are jam-packed with community events, all of which are supported by COVIDSafe measures.

Retirement communities can host resident-only events to mitigate risks of visitors entering a village which has recently been exposed to COVID-19. Regularly testing residents in the lead-up to community events can also help drastically reduce the risks of seniors catching COVID-19 within their community residences.

Potential ideas for community enrichment events include specialty classes taught by visiting artists or other experts, and even community conventions or mini-festivals designed to emulate cultural events like the Sydney Film Festival or the city's night markets. These kinds of community-wide events can help seniors enjoy Australia's first winter out of lockdown without having to feel like they're still stuck in 2020 themselves.

Take advantage of virtual city or museum tours

Over these last two years, many museums, zoos, and aquariums across the globe took lockdowns as an opportunity to develop virtual guided tours of their facilities. These tours have proven to be highly beneficial sources of entertainment and information for families, students, and even seniors all over the world.

These virtual tours can be taken individually or collectively, making this particular enrichment activity perfectly suited to families who may have had to forego travel plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tours can also be particularly exciting for seniors who have visited the places being explored in the past, and are likely to enjoy experiencing them again with their family and friends.

Organise some digital fitness classes

A major negative to the winter months that is experienced by many who live along Australia's south east coast, is that the weather isn't conducive to exercising outdoors, as daylight hours decrease just as drastically as the temperature plummets. Winter weather can be just as hard on seniors who love to be outside and practice heart-healthy activities. That being said, neither COVID-19 restrictions of biting winter weather should be keeping anybody from staying fit and healthy throughout the season.

This is precisely why many Australian retirement villages are adding regular indoor fitness classes to their event calendars. These classes can either be taught on-site and by visiting instructors, or even through virtual classes hosted by your local gym or community centre. Many independent PTs and gyms across the country have been developing their own digital classes, so there truly is no shortage of classes that seniors can try over this season.

Host family movie nights over Zoom

This next enrichment idea is likely one that you and your family have enjoyed on multiple occasions over these past few years of COVID-19 lockdowns. There is an abundance of movies and television shows to watch, and these viewing experiences are always best shared with family and friends. That's exactly what made hosting family movie nights over Zoom one of our favourite lockdown pastimes.

You can continue this happy, little tradition by scheduling regular family movie nights over the course of this season, either independently or in collaboration with your elderly loved one's wider retirement community. Not only are movie nights a great way of staying connected, but this particular enrichment activity is also amongst the most COVIDSafe activities that can be found on this list.

Escape to the great outdoors

Finally, as borders have opened between states once more, Aussie seniors do have the option to travel with their family and loved ones this winter if that's what they'd prefer to do. Taking a trip to a secluded location in the bush or to any other part of Australia that your elderly loved one may not have been able to see before, is a superb way of ensuring that your whole family can enjoy an enriching - and still very COVIDSafe winter together.

If travelling interstate isn't an option, then you and your loved ones can take full advantage of all the senior events being hosted across the Sydney region on a regular basis over the next few months. You can stay extra COVIDSafe at these events by wearing a mask at all times, and ensuring that you and your family have access to hand sanitiser.

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Maintaining balance between providing Aussie seniors with opportunities for community enrichment and ensuring that they still stay safe and healthy throughout the winter months, is certainly a tall order. Even so, it's a mission shared by many of Australia's retirement community and aged care providers, and it is a mission that they don't take lightly.

Individuals who do have loved ones in over 55 communities can help support all community COVIDSafe initiatives by maintaining COVIDSafe practices themselves, and doing their part to connect with their loved ones over these coming months in particular wherever possible, whether it be via Zoom or in person at community events.