99¢ for the first month
99¢ for the first month.

New program aims to keep seniors connected

Amy Riggins

Good morning Shawnee! Whatever the weather brings today, I hope you are enjoying it! Did you see any snowflakes last Tuesday morning? What, snow in April? Yep, hard to believe! Between snow, sunshine, rain, wind, frost warnings, sub-freezing wind chills, thunderstorms, and daily changing temperatures, it’s been quite a week. But oh, so very typical for Oklahoma weather!

Here in Oklahoma we are also riding the ups and downs of how COVID-19 has affected our everyday lives. With so many changes in our world, please remember we still have a choice in how we respond. We can still have hope and peace, and we will get through this together! While I’d rather be seeing our friends at the Senior Center and the Community Center, I hope this finds you healthy and staying safe.

Like many of you, I am spending the majority of my time at home. I am now working from home, worshipping at home, and “staying safer at home.” I am thankful for resources and technology which allows us to do so. A few times I have ventured out to buy essential supplies. My husband and I take walks in the neighborhood or ride bikes on the bike paths, all while maintaining appropriate social distancing. We now have masks and gloves to wear if we do have to go into a store or pick up food from a drive through.

Are you still following the CDC guidelines to protect yourself and your loved ones? We’ve now had more practice washing hands with soap and warm water, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact with others who are sick or may have been exposed. Social distancing is becoming more of a habit. I hope you are making wise and healthy choices such as these, which the CDC recommends to help lower the risk of exposing yourself or others to COVID-19, as well as “flattening the curve.” These are new steps for all of us, but necessary during these serious times.

Despite the changes to our daily lives the past few weeks, there is a great deal of creativity both around town and in the news. I’ve heard about and seen bears in windows, signs in yards, colorful chalk designs on sidewalks and driveways, gardening and landscape projects springing up, driveway concerts, street dancing, porch performances, smiling delivery drivers bringing unique gifts from local businesses, and parades of cars, with friends, families, and teachers waving and sharing greetings from at least 6’ away. Who knows? You might even see a parade near your house soon!

It is important us to stay in touch with others. Have you written any letters lately? Or maybe sent an email or text, if you have that capability? You could also pick up the phone to reach out and call a friend, family member, neighbor, or church member. You might make someone else’s day, while giving yourself a positive boost.

A new program is launching to help seniors stay connected and get to know a younger person. The Shawnee Parks and Recreation Department has developed an Intergenerational Pen Pal Program. We match seniors with school-aged children who want to write letters about once a week. The children are supervised by their parents, and it’s a great way for them to learn letter writing skills. Being a pen pal can also build bridges across generations, as we all have insights to gain from one another. If you are a senior who would like to volunteer to be a pen pal, you can call 405-214-5050 to register or find out more information.

Making time to exercise and staying active while being at home is a challenge, but it is worth it. Starting with small time increments and building consistency are keys to maintaining good circulation, strength, and flexibility. I’ve found an hourly reminder is helpful to get up and move around the house or perform easy home exercises. Try to new one each day to help fight off boredom.

Are you missing your fitness classes? If you have Facebook or internet access, there are several online exercise classes you can follow from your home. The Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative (OHAI) is offering Tai Chi for Better Balance and other exercise classes on their Facebook page. There is a link to the OHAI page from our Facebook page found at Shawnee Parks and Recreation. In addition, the YMCA is offering free online exercise classes for all ages, which can be found at

Even if you are spending most of your time at home, please remember you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to or would like to ask for prayer, you can call one of the many wonderful churches in the area and ask to speak to a minister. There is also a toll free 24/7 Prayer Line set up by Samaritan’s Purse at 1-888-388-2683.

If you have questions or concerns regarding COVID-19 there is a toll free 24/7 informational call center at 1-877-215-8336, offered by The Oklahoma State Department of Health. This dedicated phone line offers information, resources, a symptom checker, and local references. It is operated by public health nurses, and you can speak with a live professional after calling in and making a few selections.

We miss seeing everyone at the Senior Center and the Community Center, and we look forward to reopening when it is safe to do so. Until then, please stay safe, and be healthy!