On March 17, the Desert Foothills Family YMCA was forced to close its facility to members. Valley YMCAs (Y) see a significant number of seniors, especially so at the Desert Foothills location. Raye Gall, district executive director, says that by March they had already noticed that fewer seniors were coming in due to concerns over the coronavirus — so, the team sprang into action.

Reaching Out to Area Seniors

“We had already started to pick up the phone and check on them. We had noticed that our ‘regulars’ weren’t coming through the doors and we were very concerned about them and knowing that they come to the Y for their social life, it’s a part of their overall health and wellness.”

The Y created a virtual portal on their website where community members would have opportunities to gain knowledge and stay healthy even though they weren’t able to visit in person. The team also began hosting Facebook live classes — many aimed at the more vulnerable older adult population, offering Silver Sneakers, Chair Yoga and Active Adults classes.

Riding the Open/Close Rollercoaster

“We were able to reopen, physically, our doors on May 13,” Gall continued. “It was not at full force, as you can imagine, and most of our seniors were not ready to come back to the Y.”

“We continued with our Facebook live classes knowing that they wouldn’t all come back. But then we also had to close our doors again.”

Based on orders from the governor, they ceased indoor operation again on June 29. But the team continued Facebook live events and its senior outreach the entire time and are continuing to do so currently, despite having once again opened their doors to the public.

Engaging Mind, Body and Spirit

The classes that are broadcast through Facebook live are free. The team at the Y is providing them as a community service knowing that seniors are an important part of the population.

“We want them to continue to stay engaged and healthy in mind, body, spirit as we all are trying to navigate 2020, but knowing that they are especially affected during this time,” Gall added.

But those taking the classes are not the only ones benefitting — the Y staff also felt the impact of the coronavirus shutdown and the disconnect from those they serve.

“I can tell you it has been an amazing journey. It’s been a heartfelt journey,” Gall related. “When we talk about a staff that serves the public and when we had to close our doors originally, it was heartbreaking. We are used to seeing about a thousand folks on an average day at the Desert Foothills YMCA, to not seeing any. We did kick into gear with our essential worker childcare services, so we were serving children. But for the member services it was completely stopped. Being able to make those phone calls actually filled their hearts and that was some of the happier times, being able to make those calls and engaging with those they were familiar with.”

Coming Together and Serving Those in Need

Now that summer temperatures are in the rearview mirror, the Y is offering more outdoor classes, including cycling and yoga, in addition to their socially distanced indoor classes. And the online classes will continue, “We know many people will continue to stay home for quite some time,” Gall said.

The organization will also continue its outreach to those who are staying home, and their partnerships with area organizations such as Foothills Caring Corps and Foothills Food Bank. Gall said that they don’t want to duplicate the efforts of their partners, but rather to continue “coming together as a community and serving those in need.”

Learn more at valleyymca.org/desert-foothills. |CST

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