JFS Arts, Wellness, and Engagement Program (AWE) for Older Adults Gets Creative

The JFS Arts, Wellness, & Engagement Program (AWE) offers FREE activities for older adults that range from personalized fitness classes to educational and arts activities, social events, and more.

Transition to Virtual Programming

Over the last year and a half, AWE programming transitioned to virtual platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The transition went much smoother and was better received that anyone on the AWE team had anticipated.

“We all thought no one was going to join virtually and no one was going to like it, but all of us were surprised at how it actually increased accessibility for a lot of people,” said Kimiko Kelly, Director of the JFS Arts, Wellness, and Engagement Program.

The virtual programming has been so popular that many members say they want to keep attending virtually so they don’t have to travel; they are happy to do it from home.

“I feel it keeps me busy and gives me time at home to do what I want. In between classes, I’ll take care of other things. It makes me feel good that I can do more. I even started cooking which I didn’t do before,” said Gladys, AWE member.

The virtual programming has also allowed members to connect in entirely new ways and feel less isolated.

“When this stay-at-home order came in, I was home alone and there were a lot of times when I didn’t know what day it was. I didn’t have a routine, then JFS started the Zoom programming, and I don’t feel alone anymore, because I’m busy,” said Gladys. “It’s been a very good thing for me. My family knows not to call during my classes.”

“I spend my week ‘Zoom-ing’,” said Barbara, AWE member. “You are missing a great deal if you don’t Zoom in. I find it a marvelous way to connect.

“It’s been really impressive that we can actually get social support through the internet like this. It’s just surprising that it has become a way to connect with people and maintain connections,” said Kimiko. “During the fitness classes, there’s always a group that joins early and compliments each other’s outfits and video backgrounds. There’s a whole element of socializing that goes on Zoom.”

Getting Creative with Programming

Through Zoom, program coordinators have been able to offer a mix of interesting new content to AWE members including virtual museum tours, educational talks, cooking classes, art classes, monthly musical performances, monthly opera series, and more.

In September, for Hispanic Heritage Month, AWE members attended a virtual exhibition of the Museum of Latin American Art’s ‘Oaxacalifornia: Through the Experience of Duo Tlacolulokos.’ The exhibition showcased murals that consider the relationship between LA and the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca and California through visual arts, education, social activism, and literature.

“I really appreciate the musical guests and old-time songs. I enjoy listening to all of it,” said Gladys.

“They have monthly opera talks which is one my favorites! I enjoy it so much and I tell people to get on,” said Barbara. “I thank JFS for extending this programming to us. I’m so happy about it.”

Program Diversity

The AWE program has around 600 members all at different stages of older adulthood. Due to this, Kimiko Kelly and her team are working on introducing new programming for members with lower and higher mobilities.

“We want to start to have more segmentation so there’s programming that fits everyone’s needs,” said Kimiko. “We want to make our program appealing to the larger community and offer something for everyone.”

The AWE team currently has programming in English and Russian, but is also planning on adding programming in Spanish, Farsi, Korean, and more. They want to serve as many communities as possible.

“We want people to know we are open to everyone,” said Kimiko. “This program is FREE and OPEN TO ALL SENIORS.”

To learn more about the Arts, Wellness, and Engagement Program click here.