Beyond Wellness, Social Benefits of Virtual Programs at The Gateway Family YMCA
When the global pandemic ceased normal wellness operations in March, no one could be prepared for the extended impact of social isolation, especially in the most vulnerable populations of seniors and those with chronic health conditions. What came next was an unexpected benefit of virtual programs offered by The Gateway Family YMCA – continued social connection.
“Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean we can’t be social. That is a message we started using early on with our virtual wellness programs,” stated Krystal R. Canady, CEO, The Gateway Family YMCA. “While we shifted our focus to immediate and critical community needs – housing and social services, food insecurity, and virtual chronic disease programs – we knew that the Y had a responsibility to continue the connections we have built with our members, and our community. In fact, we launched our first virtual program immediately in March.”
What came next was Your Virtual YMCA, a virtual program platform created by The Gateway Family YMCA, which currently provides more than 35 live programs each week, ranging from group exercise, martial arts, youth fitness, enrichment, chronic disease self-management, small group programs, social opportunities, virtual summer camp and virtual WISE Adult Services. “The virtual classes allow me to continue my exercise program which is important to me physically, mentally and spiritually. They are easy to access and keep me connected to the YMCA community,” shared Janet, YMCA Member. All programs require registration at www.tgfymca.org. While some programs are open to the community, the Y also offers a low-cost Virtual Only membership option.
“The Gateway Family YMCA has served our community for over 120 years. We know that our group exercise and wellness programs are more than a fitness opportunity, and that many of our members need the socialization provided within those group programs,” stated Melynda A. Mileski, EVP/COO. “Our goal was to facilitate the same experience online, while promoting social distancing for our members. In fact, we’ve found that our senior members have the strongest attendance and are committed to our weekly programs, many attending more consistently than when they were in person.”
A typical program begins with a round of welcome messages, excited voices and members who are happy to remain connected. There is no isolation when you are meeting with your friends multiple times per week, add to that the side benefit of a workout, motivation and shared wellness tips. Classes like Chair Yoga, Silver Sneakers, and Enhance Fitness for Arthritis are popular among the senior members, while Zumba and Yoga have a strong following from ages 12 and up. For younger members, the Y offers Yoga Kids and Get Fit Kids as well as Virtual Summer Camp.
Class participants are especially appreciative. “Thank you so much! You have been a great blessing. My life has totally changed. I have my balance back. My neck is not hurting, neither are my shoulders and knees. As you see, quarantine got me into a very bad place. I have to continue virtually even though I would love to get outside and see some real people. But I know, this too shall pass,” shared Sara, YMCA Member.
Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs include Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring, Diabetes Empowerment Education Program, Y’s Weight Loss Program and Healthy Weight and Your Child, some free and open to the community. While the YMCA also offers specialized support for caregivers and those with Alzheimer’s, Dementia or mild cognitive impairment, as well as those socially isolated through the virtual WISE Adult Services Program, complete with Support Groups, “FamJams” – family fun sessions, daily activities and dedicated assistance.
“We see our virtual programs as an extension of our Y programming and expect this to continue even as we are providing in person programs, currently outdoors, and well into the future,” added Colleen A. Clayton, Chief Membership and Development Officer, The Gateway Family YMCA. “Each week I exchange emails with over a thousand members who may be socially isolated to provide them updates, information and assist them in connecting with our staff and programs. They are very appreciative and have become very active in our virtual programs.”
The Gateway Family YMCA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, health and community service organization of caring staff and volunteers dedicated to strengthening the foundations of community and stands For Youth Development, For Healthy Living and For Social Responsibility. The Y impacts the community by providing quality services to people of all ages, races, faiths or incomes. The Y is a powerful association of men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life joined together by a shared passion: to strengthen the foundations of community.
For more information about The Gateway Family YMCA, visit www.tgfymca.org or contact 908-355-9622.