The Hopkinton Senior Center is powering through the pandemic with free virtual programs spearheaded by director of senior services Amy Beck and assistant director Ashley Shaheen.
Together Beck and Shaheen have coordinated with Senior Center staff to allow seniors to connect with each other through Zoom programs offering many instructive exercise classes, educational courses and weekly social gatherings.
“When the Senior Center closed on March 13 we really wanted to make sure we stayed connected with everybody,” Beck said. “So the first thing we did was make a lot of calls, talking to a lot of our seniors and then Ashley and I thought about what we could bring to people.”
Added Sheehan: “We reached out to all our instructors and volunteer program leaders to see who would feel comfortable with the technology and to get it up to speed on their end in order to make it happen.”
Beck and Shaheen have built a welcoming, growing community for seniors to learn and find ways to be together.
“We have weekly Ted Talks with rotating topics for discussion, a regional networking group that meets twice a week, an informal coffee hour where people can chit-chat and talk, French classes offered twice a week by Nathalie Scott who puts in so much time and effort in those classes, even leaves people with homework at the end,” Shaheen said.
“And they like it!” Beck added.
“Additionally, we also have a volunteer who helps with troubleshooting and technology issues and some one on one legal appointments where we have an attorney,” Shaheen said.
Hopkinton resident Sheila Frackleton can attest to the effectiveness of the virtual programs.
“I do a couple of Zoom classes for exercise, which is great,” she said. “They’re very easy to do at home. I’m also in Nathalie Scott’s French class twice a week. The French classes are different from how you would do it in high school, too. It’s more so you can learn different phrases so you can carry on a conversation. It’s great, and everyone participates.”
Nancy “Punky” Drawe, host of the weekly Wednesday morning social coffee talks, also is very appreciative of the chance to stay connected.
“I’ve been involved in the Senior Center for 10-13 years,” Drawe said. “It’s just really nice that Ashley and Amy are so aware of the social part and how much we miss it.”
Added Frackleton: “It’s really nice to see everyone over Zoom because otherwise you wouldn’t get to see them with the social distancing. It’s just a nice way to get together.”
The directors said they welcome suggestions as to how they can add to their program offerings. Those with ideas can call the Senior Center at 508-497-0730 or visit hopkintonseniorcenter.com for email addresses.
“We just want everyone to know that even though the building is closed, the staff are here for everyone in the community to reach out,” Shaheen said. “And if anyone has an idea for outside of the box programs we’re very happy to talk to them.”
Added Beck: “We’re here for the community. So, if there’s something you’d like to see give us a call and we’ll work with you.”
Meanwhile, Beck and Shaheen continue to work on expanding the scope of the virtual programs.
“Coming up we’re also going to offer some history talks and karaoke,” Beck said. “Just call us and we’ll help you get connected.”