As we cross the mid-point of 2021, older adults are starting to enjoy going out again, resuming work, and doing some light traveling, but many are still reluctant to re-join their gyms, attend crowded events, or engage in enclosed venues with people they don’t know. This is especially true for people with compromised immune systems or other conditions which may still make them vulnerable to Covid-19. However, thanks to online communities, staying safe does not sentence anyone to a life of inactivity, loneliness, or boredom. It’s important to also note that many older adults were active and engaged throughout the pandemic, and for some, that took stepping out of their comfort zone, technologically speaking

During most of 2020 and into 2021, being social required being online. Kids did it for school; parents had to be online to understand what was required of them in schooling their kids; mid-life adults were online for work. Retired adults could have isolated themselves and sunk into a lonely depression, with only the occasional Zoom meeting with their kids and grandkids. However, a variety of organizations, both new and old, saw the gap and rose to the occasion with a cornucopia of opportunities for men and women who were faced with an imposed isolation of indefinite length.

Vitality Society

Started in early 2020 by Meredith Oppenheim, a Harvard MBA with two decades of senior living experience, Vitality Society took off like a rocket.  The just-pre-Covid timing was perfect for her vision of a vibrant online community of older adults interacting, learning, and getting healthier together. A year and a half later, Vitality Society is thriving. They offer live online and recorded classes in physical modalities (yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, physical therapy, Zumba, etc.), along with guest lecturers, discussion groups, meditation, art classes, and more. 

Vitality Society operates on a subscription basis, offering month-to-month membership for anyone over the age of 60. 

Amava

Similar to Vitality Society, Amava is an online community for adults, but without an age floor.  In other words, it’s for anyone who is interested in what they have to offer. Their slogan is “Discover Your Next.”  Amava offers “Circles,” which are learning and discussion groups on a wide variety of topics (e.g. life planning, caregiving, volunteering, storytelling), in which participants have the opportunity to learn from experts, discuss their experiences, and practice something they are interested in. I attended one called “Find your Fit in Volunteering.” It was fascinating; the guides (Amava’s name for their session leaders) were extremely knowledgeable, the group was manageably small, and I took away some valuable information. 

Amava operates on a pay-as-you-go model rather than a membership structure and people of any age are welcome. 

Project Renewment

In 2013, Helen Dennis and Bernice Bratter released a revolutionary book called Project Renewment. It was the first book to ever address womens’ retirement and to offer women the opportunity to think about what they wanted to do next. Its authors subsequently launched a series of “renewment groups” for women to explore the issues they faced together. Last year, Ms. Dennis launched a new renewment website, which is spawning new groups during the continuing pandemic. Women throughout the world are invited to form or join these groups–now virtual and even more important during a time of uncertainty.

These organizations have been called “game changers” and “lifelines” during this past 15 months. Participants have credited them with saving their mental and physical lives. Now that we are emerging from the long period of isolation, none of the above-mentioned have any intention of shutting down, as many participants have claimed to replace some of their old routines with the new ones on a permanent basis.

Find Your Own

There are a host of other sites designed for older adults to interact and discuss issues that are near and dear to their hearts. Kristin McCarthy’s “Senior Citizen Online Communities: A Guide to Virtual Groups” on the website Love to Know is an excellent overview and introduction to the best of them.



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