When the COVID-19 crisis began, the staff at Greenwich House in New York City worked tirelessly to ensure that all of their members had access to the meal services that they absolutely rely on. However, in the midst of this lifesaving work, they also knew that they needed to think about how to keep their social, artistic, and learning programs going strong to fulfill the social and creative needs of their membership.
Greenwich House wasted no time pivoting many of their in-person programs to online delivery. Working with their teaching artists and the communications team, nearly 40 percent of their classes are now available to livestream.
Greenwich House senior centers usually serve 400 people daily, and the team knew that their members would want to continue to engage with the artistic programs that they rely on for learning, expression, and community. Prior to the pandemic, all of their programs took place in-person. Greenwich House staff was unsure of how their older adults would respond to online programs, and had concerns regarding access to the technology.
Greenwich House staff knew that simply transitioning to an online platform would not be enough to ensure that their older adult students had access and ease in utilizing the classes.
As many members rely on the center for meals and other services, staff were already planning to call each member to do a wellness check after the pandemic lock-down took effect. During these calls, they also assessed their members’ programming needs and wishes. They soon learned their members had a real desire to share their artistic work. They requested that those who were already creating art at home submit photos of their work to a virtual community gallery.
The director at the Center on the Square location, Laura Marceca, and Greenwich House’s Manager of Marketing and Communications, Celeste Kaufman, were quick to set up an online presence to ensure the class could continue. They chose Zoom for its ease of use, and because people can call into Zoom via phone if they don’t have internet access.
Their teachers quickly adapted to the new format. The classes were very well attended and even attracted new students. Their teachers quickly adapted to the new format. The members’ capacity and comfort level with technology varied widely, so Greenwich House also posted several pre-recorded on-demand videos offering access to dance, Zumba, Tai Chi, instruction, among others.
Recognizing that their community members have a wide range of accessibility and ease with technology, Greenwich House was flexible and utilized more than one option for their older adults to engage in online formats. It is with this intentional effort and deep thinking about accessibility and inclusion that they were able to retain community and connection despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic posed.
Host Organization Name
Host Organization Description
Greenwich House was founded in 1902 in the settlement house tradition with the mission of helping immigrants adjust to life in NYC. Today Greenwich House continues to respond to the needs of community, providing health, wellness, and cultural programs for seniors since 1966; behavioral health programs for those overcoming addiction beginning in the 60s, and therapy for victims of child abuse since 1987. Its arts programming for youth, adults and seniors include private and group classes, exhibitions, concerts and residencies and are among its earliest programming starting in 1905.
Host Organization Website
For Greenwich House’s online programming, each instructor is calling in remotely via Zoom.
Greenwich House recruited existing senior center members for online programming as part of their wellness check phone calls.
It was very encouraging to see people laughing at each other’s jokes and stories. Even the heckling was nice to hear, because all of us were craving social interaction.
The only way we could connect at that time was through virtual programming, I would encourage other senior centers to create some virtual programs or offerings so seniors can be connected!