Area agencies on aging help to provide older adults with the resources they need to stay in their homes and communities as long as possible. AgeSmart Community Resources is one such area agency on aging that is funded through the Federal Older Americans Act. It is one of 13 other area agencies on aging in Illinois that provide resources for older adults in their region.
“Technology is intimidating for most older adults. What’s unique about GetSetUp is that the platform allows older adults to learn things from their peers as well as with their peers. We are excited to offer tools and resources to help older adults stay connected and socially engaged through our partnership with GetSetUp!”
said Kiyeon Yoch, AgeSmart’s Grants/Planning Manager, who helps to find providers and assures funding gets to essential services for older adults including nutrition services, transportation services, caregiver support services, and learning opportunities.
“Older adults are the age group hardest hit and the most vulnerable. They are suffering most by the isolation of social distance.”
The pandemic forced AgeSmart to change their service models. There are no longer group activities or dining. Now it is curbside meal pick up or delivery services and all other services are being provided telephonically.
“Seniors are pretty isolated. They are generally at a higher risk for loneliness and now they are even more at risk with social isolation and loneliness — and that’s an issue.”
Mitigating these issues, AgeSmart has implemented telephone well-being check-in calls, reaching out to those that are homebound, connecting with programs to address food needs, and most recently providing virtual learning programs through GetSetup.
“Learning and education are really important. I’m a huge proponent of life-long learning especially since as we age that is what keeps our mind sharp and our brain active. There are a number of studies that show that learning in later life promotes our physical and emotional well-being. I believe learning is an essential component of successful aging overall.”
Yoch first heard about GetSetUp when an email was forwarded to her from a colleague.
“The whole concept of online learning for older adults in a live group format I thought was a great way to stay connected and socially engaged.”
Within 10 minutes she had checked out the link to the site — saw the user-friendly interface and clean, simple, design flow, and had scheduled a call with the Co-Founder, Lawrence to learn more.
Yoch described the partnership as painless since the whole team has been super professional.
“They know what they are doing. This is new for us, we have never worked with a tech company before, so all the resources the team has provided have been very valuable.”
Key to the success she thinks is GetSetUp’s customization process to meet AgeSmart’s needs to assist with the registration process and assure learners understand how to book classes.
“Some modifications needed tweaking along the way but Judy and the team did a great job — above and beyond. It’s been a great experience and we have learned a lot. We definitely want to continue this relationship.”
“The program was slow to start because it has taken a lot of time to advertise and promote the services since people were so isolated. It wasn’t like a senior center where we could share with everyone. We had to individually reach out to our population and that was a challenge since not everyone has internet at home or has a device. Many don’t regularly check emails or social media, so we had to use more word of mouth, print out flyers, and use more traditional ways of advertising.”
To help facilitate this, AgeSmart and GetSetUp reached out to the local assisted living facilities and other non-traditional partners like the YMCA to reach as many older adults in the community as possible.
This question is best answered by the members themselves in user reviews!
Kay Zacharski attended a beginner Zoom course and said, “I did have a bit of trouble with Zoom getting to Wade’s class, but once I was there, I found the class to be just what I wanted. Wade was thorough in his explanations and answered questions. He even offered to research a problem that he didn’t have an immediate answer for during the class. I would recommend this class.”
Not all classes are technology-based, some students like Cheryl Davenport prefer to attend enrichment courses like how to stay calm during stressful times.
She said, “The person conducting the course was excellent. Gave great information to me. Very pleasant speaking voice. Gave us the opportunity to ask questions. Had a great time learning how to relax and stay calm. Thank you.”
“I like the fact that it’s not just an education platform but it is also a space where people can socialize virtually so I was very excited to see some of the classes like sharing your recipes, book club, and other social hours. I think it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.
"Plus the educators who facilitate the classes are older adults themselves, often retired teachers and seniors feel more comfortable learning from their peers.”
“We’ve noticed that a lot of class participants are outside of our service network. They didn’t know about AgeSmart before GetSetUp classes and that was one of the goals when we first started — we wanted to reach more seniors. One thing about aging resources is that people don’t think about them until they are in a crisis mode. Most people don’t realize that we exist, which is unfortunate because so much of the stress and confusion can be avoided by planning ahead. We want people to know that we provide resources to support successful aging and help them age well. With the online classes, we are driving new traffic to our website and more people learn about who we are and what we do, which is great.”
“I think the most popular ones are the basic technology classes — Get Started With Zoom for Beginners, Using Your iPad, and How Your Smartphone Can Make You Smarter. Though now we started to see people taking other classes like personal enrichment classes and hobbies. In addition, we also are promoting zoom classes for our senior center directors who had never done zoom meetings or classes. Now with the pandemic, it has become necessary to utilize those new tools. We are encouraging them to learn How to Schedule & Host Zoom Meetings because sooner or later they will have to do it.”
Learning is a life-long skill necessary for everyone from the people who run community centers and senior living to members themselves!
“In the future when the senior centers reopen we want to continue to utilize these classes and have them offered as virtual learning at the senior center. We would like to see a lot of seniors come to the senior center where we would have set up devices and internet access. Maybe even cast class to a Smart TV and have a small group class. I’m not sure how that would work yet but we see this as a long-term investment.”
AgeSmart and many other area agencies on aging are seeing the need to revamp the care of older adults to meet modern times. Check out the virtual classes and social hours that keep bringing older adults to GetSetUp and see for yourself why virtual learning is here to stay.
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