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Closed Kingsport Senior Center keeping in contact with members via social media

Matthew Lane • Apr 4, 2020 at 9:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Through the power of social media, the Kingsport Senior Center is staying engaged with as many seniors as possible as the Model City navigates the challenges of a global pandemic.

Two weeks ago, Kingsport closed a number of city offices and facilities, including the senior center and its branch locations, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Though necessary, the move left some 4,600 senior center members one less place to go during the day.

To help keep seniors engaged and up to date with what’s going on within the facility, staff members have taken to Facebook, posting videos, sharing links and asking folks to send photos of what they’re doing to pass the time at home.

“We’re trying to put a variety of different things (online) that would be interesting to the seniors,” said Shirley Buchanan, executive director of the Kingsport Senior Center. “What we’re doing, what’s going on, and every day we try and put something online of the progress of our projects.”

KEEPING FOLKS ENGAGED

Here are some of the things Buchanan said senior center staff is posting to social media:

— Links to museums, cultural events and state parks to let seniors go on “virtual trips.” The senior center sponsors a number of actual trips throughout the year, which are popular among the seniors.

— Demonstrations of crafting and art activities, such as daily ones from Joann's “Craft-at-home” videos.

— A request for photos from seniors of what they might be doing that day.

— Live videos of games such as “Brain Games” to help keep seniors' minds quick and active.

— A request for recipes and what shows are being watched on Netflix and elsewhere, just to give viewing suggestions to other seniors during their time at home.

“And every day we’re putting information out on the coronavirus and how to stay safe,” Buchanan said. “I think that’s the most important thing we’re trying to get out to them. Stay safe, be in small groups and make sure people are staying home.”

UPDATES ON PROJECTS

On Tuesday morning, the Kingsport Senior Center went live on Facebook, showing seniors the projects taking place at the Lynn View Community Center. The work involved repainting nine chairs and some display cabinets for the artisan center.

All of the chairs were different colors and different types of wood, and staff wanted them all uniform and in good shape for when seniors ultimately return to the center.

“We put that online because we want to show folks how busy our staff is being,” Buchanan said. “That we’re not just sitting in an office or at home not doing anything. We are trying to make all aspects of the center better for when our members get to come back and see what we’ve been doing.”

READY TO RETURN

Diane Broyles has worked full time at Lynn View the past two years and was one of the employees painting chairs on Tuesday. She said she “very much so” has been missing the seniors and thinks the seniors will be excited with the improvements being made.

“They’ve been in contact with us, walking on our track outside, and they let us know when they’re out there so we can stand at the door and wave to them. So we’re missing them quite a bit,” Broyles said.

The Kingsport Senior Center has about 2,300 followers on Facebook, and any given post is garnering about 500 views with 15 to 20 comments, which illustrates that many seniors are trying to stay engaged. Regardless, Buchanan believes many of these folks would rather be back at the senior center.

“From several of their posts, they are ready for things to get open, even though they know they cannot,” Buchanan said. “Some of them are lonely and isolated, but some have taken the challenge of going out and walking, working in the garden, hiking or doing exercises online. I’m assuming all are ready to have some interaction with seniors their age.”

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