Drive-In Style Activities for Seniors
By Kathryn Cherkas
For over 40 years, Friendship Center has been a post in our community for compassionate care for aging adults. Friendship Center’s two sites, one in Montecito and the other in Goleta, offer exciting day programs for adults and seniors to enjoy daily while offering caregivers respite. Since closing our physical doors on March 16th due to COVID-19 precautions, we have had to find alternative ways to connect with our beloved senior friends.
On Wednesday, June 17th, Friendship Center held the first-ever ‘Drive-In Activity Hour’. Our senior members and their caregivers joined us from the safety of their cars in the Montecito Friendship Center’s parking lot, with each car backed into a designated space at least 6ft from another vehicle. The majority of our senior friends live with a dementia diagnosis and many have co-occurring diagnoses as well, making this a particularly vulnerable population to illness exposure; because of this, most of the seniors have not left their homes since the COVID-19 threat came to Santa Barbara in mid-March. This event was many of the seniors’ first times leaving their homes and seeing familiar faces and spaces in three months!
Staff led the guests, who remained in their car for the duration of the event, through a fun seated exercise/dance and then passed the baton over to Trudy and Oscar, the musical duo that has been performing at Friendship Center for decades. I can only imagine that you would have heard the singing of nearly forty people from down the block! After a thirty-minute musical performance, we ended the session with some shout-out brain games.
While this was an unconventional way of connecting with our friends, the impact it had on the families as well as the staff, who develop a familial connection whilst caring for the seniors, was invaluable. It may have looked funny with everyone sitting distanced in their cars with masks on but they once again were able to sing together, dance together, and just be together. That is the greatest thing we have created at Friendship Center, giving our seniors and their caregivers a community of their own. We are so proud to have found a new way of creating this community and look forward to coming together again on August 27th for the next drive-in!