With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, seniors living in Manhattan were introduced to a new level of social isolation. Family members were hesitant to visit for fear of bringing the virus with them. Senior centers and support groups closed their doors. And nearly all the accessible cultural centers and entertainment venues were shut down.
And yet, in another testament to the potential for learning and growth late into life, many seniors became acclimated to Zoom video calls and online experiences, just the same as their younger cohorts. Thankfully, many institutions and programs adapted their content to be accessible virtually. This has provided some critical – though perhaps less than ideal – opportunities for human interaction, learning, and entertainment.
Today, roughly eighteen months from the start of the pandemic, we remain in a precarious place. With a large percentage of the US population still unvaccinated, and with a new wave of infections, many older adults remain concerned about the possibility of being infected. Thus, it’s no surprise that many of the organizations and programs that cater to seniors remain closed to in-person experiences. That leaves us with a mixture of virtual programming and in-person (aka “In Real Life” or “IRL”, for those who stay up with all the latest acronyms our society produces) opportunities for socialization, entertainment, and learning.
In the remainder of this article, we’ll review some of the virtual and in real life activities for seniors living in New York City. And you can also take a look at our Senior Activity Calendar for an updated listing of events near you.
Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the “Met”) and the Brooklyn Museum remain open to visitors with proof of vaccination. Current featured exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum include The Obama Portraits and Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Meanwhile, the is Met is featuring In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, The Medici: Portraits and Politics, and In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at the Met, among others.
For older adults facing the challenges of dementia, the Met is offering one of the few in-person experiences currently available with An Afternoon of Art in the Central Park Conservatory Garden. This program is offered through Met Escapes, which creates art experiences for individuals living with dementia, along with their family members or “care partners”.
Virtual programming options for adults with cognitive changes remain more common these days. Arts & Minds is a fantastic program that crates interactive art experiences that often include the opportunity for participants to create their own art. Currently, their virtual programs are available daily during the week at 2pm. In addition, the Jewish Museum is offering its JM Journeys program online, as is the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum with their Stories Within offering.
The iconic Lincoln Center is again open to visitors with proof of vaccination and masking in place. In addition, “Lincoln Center at Home” continues to provide accessible on-demand programming to their patrons. Restart Stages, the outdoor summer event series, is a great example of such content.
For concerts in New York City’s great outdoors, have a look at the Outdoor Concert Series from NYC Parks & Rec. Musicians from around the world perform everything from opera to hip hop to world music, all in a park near you.
Rhythm Break Cares is a wonderful organization that offers dancing and social opportunities to older adults living with dementia. Known for their “Tea Dance Socials”, among other events, you can still experience their programs monthly via virtual events.
For individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, Dance for PD is a great program for dance classes. Participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are stimulating and creative. Currently available via Live Stream or Hybrid format.
Senior Planet, with a large center in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, offers a tremendous catalog of programming for learning and technology, along with various other types of events. Currently they are also offering free online fitness and wellness classes for seniors.
DOROT’s University Without Walls program offers hundreds of teleconference programs, appealing to a wide range of interests. Topics include Museum Discussions, Literature & Storytelling, Music & Performing Arts, Current Events, Jewish Interests and Health & Wellness. The process of getting started has been made easy online.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), headquartered in New York City, offers free programming that enables individuals with dementia-related illnesses, caregivers and senior citizens to take part in engaging, cognitively stimulating activities and socialize with others in a dementia-friendly place. On any given day, you’ll see people taking part in live, interactive music performances; arts and crafts; dance and movement therapy; or pet and horticultural therapy.
For a longer list of organizations committed to lifelong learning, visit the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. Funded by the Bernard Osher Foundation, these lifelong learning institutes are located throughout the country, providing affordable learning programs for individuals over the age of 50.