Make the most of virtual events

Debra Saxon, founder of 10-year-old Celebration Senior Magazine based in Dallas, Texas, has been working overtime since early March to bring virtual events and activities to seniors nationwide. She believes that while virtual opportunities have exploded in recent months due to COVID-19, the medium will continue as an ongoing trend, especially for seniors and house- or facilities-bound individuals.

“We’ve had well over 11,000 people join us for online events,” said Saxon in mid-August. “Seniors who never thought they could do technology have been enjoying virtual tours of places like the Dallas Museum of Art or the LBJ Presidential Library, music concerts, learning programs and more, that we can offer free because of our advertising partners.”

Saxon said that while virtual may not replace in-person, the key is to make it fun and interactive. At an Aug. 12 Celebration Zoom bingo, a facilitator encouraged interaction with the 100-plus participants by asking questions such as “What was for dinner last night?”

“Virtual doesn’t have to impersonal,” said Saxon. “We can make the best out of this situation. It’s about living life large — even if it’s virtual.”

To enhance the virtual experience, Saxon pointed out that “watch parties” are becoming common. Individuals might invite a few friends over while residential senior facilities might offer virtual programming in a common room.

Saxon added that during a monthly themed happy hour, participants often dress up, share favorite drink recipes, “show and tell” about a current hobby or craft, enjoy a TV show trivia game and more.

Mary Adair Trumbly, executive director of Highlands Performing Arts Center in Western North Carolina, suggested people dress up and host small dinner parties to view one of the center’s dozens of National Theatre of London and Metropolitan Opera House plays, orchestras, operas and more offered mostly free on its website,
“People need to still socialize and they need to be entertained,” she said.