Lynn G. Hoy, the recreation services coordinator for the Price Rotary Senior Center, considers those who come to her center more than older adults in the community — they are family. That is why the 64-year-old, an employee of the City of Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation in Virginia for the past 38 years, has not retired. “I could have retired years ago, but I love this,” Hoy said. “It’s just a big extended family.”
Even though the center had to shut down to keep older adults safe during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) pandemic, Hoy continues to keep in touch with those who come to her center. In addition to regular phone calls and video chats, she has taken it upon herself to go out to drop off supplies and to conduct physically distanced visits with her center patrons. During the center’s temporary closure, Hoy spends about three hours a day conducting wellness checks by calling the older adults, seeing them through their doors and windows, and even taking her lawn chair to talk to them across their yards — “just to see their faces,” Hoy said.
Hoy estimates that about 20 older adults regularly participate in the social programs offered at the center. Many of these individuals live by themselves and are at risk of being socially isolated. “I am concentrating on the ones who are more socially isolated right now,” she said. Hoy sends them emails with activities they can do or other online resources that could be useful.
Even before the Virginia governor issued the executive order for residents to stay at home, Hoy was already participating in a group text chat with many of these older adults. Together they swap recipes and share updates about their plans and families, she said. Now, she uses this to send out positive messages and ideas for little activities they can do to keep their spirits up.
The center’s closure has not slowed down some of the social groups’ activities. The monthly book club meeting occurred using a video conference with 12 participants in April and will be held again in May. And the twice-weekly Craft and Chat group continues to gather over video meetings where about 10 participants come to craft and talk. Some exercise classes have gone virtual with some offered live online and others offered by pre-recorded videos.
“I’m so amazed at my seniors,” Hoy said. She has been impressed by how tech-savvy they are and their willingness to stay connected remotely. She also is proud of how they are contributing to the community. Many have been busy making face masks for the local hospitals and medical centers.
When Easter was approaching, Hoy knew that the City of Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation canceled its events but has an Easter bunny costume sitting unused. She decided the costume offered a perfect opportunity to boost the spirits of those at a local nursing home as well as her seniors. She made a “Happy Easter” poster, dressed in costume, and went around to wave, blow kisses and mime hugs through the windows of nursing home residents’ rooms. “It was the best thing, they haven’t had any visitors,” she said. She also made costumed visits to her older adults’ yards and even made a special Easter bunny appearance on video chat.
Pictured left: Lynn Hoy dressed in an Easter bunny costume visiting older adults in her community.
Pictured above: Lynn Hoy conducting a wellness check while practicing physical distancing with an older adult in her community.
Hoy’s connection with older adults who come to the center began long before the pandemic, and it will continue after it ends. The Price Rotary Senior Center’s 50 and Wiser activities started about 10 years ago; that is when Hoy, working in a different role for the City of Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation at the time, began getting to know the participants during her free time.
Since joining the center, Hoy has seen physical programming increase at the center and has witnessed how such programs as the evidence-based Fit & Strong! program, which began in 2018, have contributed to improvements in participants' health and social connections. “It gave them confidence to know that they could exercise,” she said. Hoy has seen some older adults, who have primarily stayed inside their homes start venturing outside because of the class and others be able to reduce or come off their medications because of it. She is looking forward to the program beginning again, hopefully in the fall. “I’ll be glad to see them again when things return to normal,” Hoy said.
Hoy has been grateful for working at the center and for making connections with all of those who come to the center. “I have loved every minute of it,” she said. “It’s been my greatest joy.”
Like many of you, Hoy is making her mark by continuing to support older adults in her community each day. May is Older Americans Month — you can celebrate by sharing the story of how you or others you know are making a mark in your community for older adults. Email us or join the conversation on social media using the hastags #HealthyAginginParks, #MakeYourMark and #OAM2020. And, be sure to check out NRPA’s Healthy Aging in Parks resources for more information.
Previous Older Americans Month blogs:
For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19, as well as available resources for park and recreation professionals, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.
Jennifer Fulcher-Nguyen is NRPA’s Communications Manager.