Volunteer Barbara Munck, 68, had trained to give AARP presentations and was just about to start leading them when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The resulting call for social distancing and bans on in-person gatherings threatened the community education programs that are a staple of AARP Connecticut’s work around the state.
Popular sessions that arm older adults and their families with crucial information about caregiving, scams, choosing an electricity supplier, job searching at 50-plus and more were canceled.
More: Find Upcoming Virtual Events
Munck, who lives in North Haven, borrowed a quote from AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus in describing how volunteers and staff responded.
“She got mad, but then she got organized,” Munck said. The volunteers quickly mobilized to learn new technology and adapt AARP’s well-known programs to the online world.
The result? A rich lineup of free virtual events, from Caregiver Roadshow and Fraud Fighting Fourth Fridays to Up Close & Personal at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, in Bridgeport, and the Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic.
Recent Webinar Wednesdays have explored such topics as the pandemic’s effect on multigenerational living and caring for those with dementia.
Other topics have included What I Need to Know About My Electric Choices, Work at Age 50+: Strategies for a Successful Job Search, and Road to Livability. Every event includes a question-and-answer session.
“We wanted to try to bring a little bit of what we did before COVID-19 to people right where they are in their communities,” said Erica Michalowski, AARP Connecticut’s community outreach and education director.
The virtual events also aim to ease the isolation and loneliness that people, including the volunteers themselves, may be feeling during the pandemic.
“It gives me a real purpose,” said Munck, who began volunteering after her husband died, four years ago. “It’s great to see another face on the computer screen and be able to interact with others.”
Although there were challenges at first, like getting everyone familiar with the technology, Munck said the virtual sessions have brought new opportunities.
Volunteers who don’t want to give presentations can help run the Zoom calls or monitor an event’s chat feature. And because the talks aren’t tied to a physical location, geography is no longer a barrier.
“If I live in Stamford, I might not want to drive to West Hartford for a presentation, but I can stay in my home and watch it,” Munck noted.
She has arranged Fraud Fighting Fourth Fridays with the Coalition for Elder Justice in Connecticut, discussing how older adults can protect themselves from financial exploitation.
Participating in a free virtual event is simple. Those who register will be sent a link and just need to log in on the day and time of the event. Go to aarp.org/ct for a list of offerings.
AARP also hosts webinars at libraries, senior centers and elsewhere. To request a free talk, contact Erica Michalowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-548-3163. To explore volunteer opportunities, email Elaine Werner at email@example.com.
Natalie Missakian is a writer living in Cheshire.
More on Connecting Virtually
This story is provided by AARP Connecticut. Visit the AARP Connecticut page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021 at 1:00pm Eastern Time
Thursday, Jan 21, 2021 at 12:00pm Eastern Time
Webinar hosted by Women's Business Development Council
Friday, Jan 22, 2021 at 10:00am Eastern Time
JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR