Yes, the Covid-19 virus is dangerous and disruptive. Your Senior Center is probably closed — or at least off-limits to groups and gatherings. You may be working from home.
Even with so many events cancelled, you still have opportunities to increase community awareness of your Senior Center and the value of your organization.
(Note: we do not have any affiliation and are not receiving any revenue from any of the programs or services we mention in this article.)
How to Make Your Senior Center Stand Out During the Crisis
Here are some strategies for how you can maintain — and perhaps enhance — your Senior Center as a vital community resource during this virtual time when you’re not meeting with people directly.
1. Set up a Virtual Meeting Platform
Many of us will have to do our meetings, networking, and work sessions virtually. Set yourself up with an app or platform that allows for conferencing and meetings online.
A Virtual meeting platform is a way to be in meetings with others – with audio and/or video. You’ve probably already been a part of virtual meetings. If you want or need to be in contact with others, and especially with groups, or managing meetings, having your own virtual platform will allow you to host your own meetings.
For very basic needs, FaceTime (for Apple products) works and Skype is also good for 1:1 or a small group.
For more robust needs, a professional video conferencing software is imperative, one that offers both audio and video — so that you can both hear and see the other members in the meeting. Also look for a platform that provides a way to record the conversation. This provides you with a document of what was discussed. If you or your team require a written version, you can upload your audio file and have it transcribed or transferred to text.
You can also use a virtual platform to host programs on your webpage. Or stream programs via Facebook Live. Some senior centers are offering yoga and other stress-reducing programs this way.
Many municipalities will have a license for such platforms. If your Senior Center is a municipal organization, check with your IT department. The Town of Brookline uses Cisco Webex.
Zoom and GoToMeeting are two additional popular platforms. The Free version of Zoom limits sessions to 40 minutes. A Premium subscription does not have this limit.
By now, you probably have done a bunch of virtual meetings. Take the next step to review your image: Be sure to monitor your location, your background, the lighting, what you’re wearing and the camera angles to reflect positively on you and your organization.
2. Use FaceBook, your website and other Social Media Tools for Greater Visibility
You can use your FaceBook page and your website to:
- Post emergency information.
- Share resources for people in need.
- List phone numbers to call for help.
- Remind your community that you are available and are practicing social distancing.
- Collect names of community volunteers.
Be sure to post such information on community websites as well. Submit articles and updates to your local media, including newspapers, community websites, list serves, etc.
Check if your local Public Access TV station is open. Ask them to show some of your past interviews or programs that may be relevant or helpful to people at home. Arrange to be interviewed remotely to give important information and support.
Partner with other organizations that are responding to the crisis such as healthcare organizations, civic and religious institutions, local social services, your Area Agency on Aging or ASAP. Remind them of your availability and your critical role as an expert on older adult issues and needs.
As mentioned previously, Facebook Live is a useful medium to share information as well as programs via video.
3. Keep Your Older Adults Engaged
Look for ways to reach out to your older adult community. Most of your participants are at home. If you are a municipal agency, use your town system to make a call to everyone:
- Remind them how to call to get help.
- Remind them to reach out to friends and neighbors who may live alone.
Use your newsletter to give your participants resources that you may not normally have space to include. Also suggest ways to stay active at home and in touch with others (posted spring 2020):
- Brookline Senior Center’s April newsletter offers Covid-19 resources, virtual activities and examples of at home programs.
- MySeniorCenter’s March FunFacts “Keep Socialization Alive” offers creative ideas for how to prevent loneliness.
This can be an opportunity to expand your reach. Offer a special email where residents can send non-urgent messages and concerns. Ask them to provide their emails so they can get email updates from you.
For emailing to groups, consider using an email platform such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp that allows you to brand your message and provide a professional look and feel to your communications.
4. Advocate for your Community’s Older Adults
Be in touch with your community’s emergency management team, your town government and other local leadership. Remind them of your expertise and wealth of information about older adults and the resources you offer.
Evaluate and identify where you might have gaps of services. At some point, life will return to “normal”. What can you do now to plan and strengthen your service and program delivery at that time?
5. Update your Brand Identity
In the short-term of this crisis, focusing on your brand may not be your primary priority. However, as the weeks go on and you have established new routines, consider evaluating your brand identity. This could provide a creative distraction!
Research shows that organizations that plan ahead during a market downturn do better when the environment returns to “normal”. If you can, take this time to strengthen your brand and your presence in your community.
Perhaps you’ve been meaning to upgrade your Senior Center’s FaceBook profile or website. Often these are low priority tasks compared to keeping your Senior Center going on a daily basis and interacting with your participants.
Think about your available brand elements — your logo, tagline, use of color palette and fonts, your visuals and videos on your website, your testimonials, your newsletter. Do they reflect your most current thinking? Are they consistent with each other? Is it time to update the brand tools you are currently using, or do you want to develop new ones?
Perhaps one of your staff members has the time to work on this now. Or use your community websites to search for a volunteer.
For new graphics, you can use a DIY creative tool like Canva, source brand identity from online creative sites like 99design or work with a graphic designer.
Let us know how you are using this time to make your senior center stand out. Send us your ideas and recommendations to Barrie@AtkinAssociates.com We will be glad to compile and share them.
As you’re dealing with this unprecedented crisis, be sure to take care of yourself. It’s hard to take care of others if you’re worn down by the news and barrage of demands on you. Practice some self-care, whether it’s going for a walk, escaping into a TV show, movie or book, or using mindfulness/meditation.
Stay connected with your friends, family and colleagues.
Whatever you do, stay safe — and look out for the more vulnerable and isolated individuals in your community.