‘Maintaining contact’: 10 virtual activities Douglas County seniors can participate in during the pandemic
photo by: Lawrence Public Library
John Nalbandian looks forward to Tuesdays, when he can Zoom into a weekly bingo game hosted by the Lawrence Public Library.
It’s not the same as playing bingo in person, of course, but it’s a means of staying connected with others, the former Lawrence mayor said.
“I live alone. I’m widowed now, and so knowing that we’re going to do bingo on Tuesday at 4 o’clock, that’s nice for me,” he said.
Nalbandian said he enjoys being around people, but the pandemic has made that difficult. For him, participating in the weekly bingo game “is just one way of kind of maintaining contact.”
Cathy Hamilton and Kathleen Morgan, who run bingo and other events for seniors through the library’s Retirement Boot Camp programming, said attendance has grown at the virtual events since the pandemic began. Hamilton said the programming is geared toward seniors living alone, who aren’t part of a retirement community with planned activities.
“There are a lot of people in that category, who, now that COVID has changed our lives dramatically, really do need that connection and something to do and something to take their minds off this horror show we’ve all been watching,” Hamilton said.
One of the groups that has “become a family,” Hamilton said, is the library’s “Coffee Break” group.
Pat Lechtenberg, who participates in the group, said the group had become so well acquainted that when it did a Secret Santa gift exchange in December, people were able to pick out appropriate gifts for one another, “which doesn’t happen among strangers.”
Like Nalbandian, Lechtenberg said she looks forward to her virtual events through the library. The two participants expressed gratitude that many other Lawrence organizations also have good resources for the community. Nalbandian specifically mentioned the Lawrence Arts Center, The Watkins Museum of History and the Lawrence Public Library as three organizations whose geographic locations form a “triangle of community.”
According to Diane Hughes, a therapist from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, loneliness in older adults is correlated with increased risk of premature death, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety and suicide.
“So, for every senior, the benefits of staying socially connected are extensive even beyond mental health,” Hughes said.
To find out what types of virtual activities Douglas County seniors can participate in to stay connected to others, the Lawrence Journal-World reached out to numerous organizations in the county.
Here’s a list of events seniors in Lawrence can participate in:
Tuesdays from 4 to 5 p.m.
Join the Lawrence Public Library’s weekly bingo event for a chance to win free books, prizes from McDonald’s and more. Participants must only register once to get on the Zoom invitation list. To register, go to lplks.org/retirement and click on the bingo event to find the registration link, or contact Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fridays at 10 a.m.
This weekly conversation group through the Lawrence Public Library allows participants to discuss the events of the day, restaurant recommendations, jokes and what’s going on around town, among a variety of other topics. Participants must only register once to get on the Zoom invitation list. To register, go to lplks.org/retirement and click on the Coffee Break event to find the registration link, or contact Hamilton at email@example.com.
Dessert and a Movie Night
Second Wednesday of the month (except April), 7 to 8 p.m.
Seniors are invited to join the Lawrence Public Library’s monthly “Dessert and a Movie Night” to discuss the Kanopy film of the month and enjoy a dessert at home. The movies can be accessed for free in advance of the meeting with a library card. To register, go to lplks.org/retirement and click on the Dessert and a Movie Night event to find the registration link, or contact Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Area seniors can join this informal conversation group to make new friends, see how others are experiencing life during the COVID-19 pandemic and enjoy the company of others. Participants can either join via Zoom or call in via telephone to chat. The group is put on by the Senior Resource Center, and people may register by calling 785-842-0543 or emailing Megan Poindexter at mpoindexter@YourSRC.org.
Third Friday of the month (except April), 7:15 p.m.
The Lawrence Arts Center’s virtual Story Slam is a storytelling event that occurs on a monthly basis. The events begin at 7:15 p.m. with a virtual happy hour and music session, followed by storytelling beginning at 7:35 p.m. Join the Story Slam sessions, and find out when the events will occur, by going to the Lawrence Arts Center’s website, lawrenceartscenter.org.
First Thursday of the month (except March), 4 to 5 p.m.
Receive answers to technology questions in this new Retirement Boot Camp virtual event hosted by the Lawrence Public Library. To register, go to lplks.org/retirement and click on the Tech Club event to find the registration link, or contact Hamilton at email@example.com.
Tour the Dole Institute of Politics
People are invited to schedule a virtual tour of the Dole Institute of Politics either as a group or individual. The Institute’s newest exhibit, “Voices from the Big First, 1961-1968,” opened Feb. 11 and is about Bob Dole’s early years in Congress. If you’re interested in a free tour, contact Public Education Coordinator Julie Clover at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesdays from 9 to 10 a.m.
Senior artists are encouraged to join this weekly Zoom group where participants can show off their current projects and catch up with friends. The group is put on by the Senior Resource Center and people may register by calling 785-727-7878 or emailing Michelle Meier at mmeier@YourSRC.org
Second and fourth Thursdays of the month, 1:30 p.m.
Theatre Lawrence’s Vintage Players group, which started in the early 2000s, is now virtual. Participants gather on Zoom to play theater games, improvisation games, exchange stories and more. To join Vintage Players, email Mary Ann Saunders at email@example.com.
Wine Around the World
Third Thursday of the month, 5 to 6 p.m.
At these monthly wine events through the Lawrence Public Library, local experts lead virtual wine tastings. Each month, the group explores different wines from across the globe. To register, go to lplks.org/retirement and click on the Wine Around the World event to find the registration link, or contact Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.