Virtual Events Help Montanans across the State to Stay Connected

Posted on 01/16/21

Inspiration from AARP Founder, Ethel Percy Andrus helped make the transition to virtual offerings. Check out our events page for all of our offerings.

Volunteer AARP Montana State President Al Ward had been giving fraud prevention trainings for years 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 Montana’s work around the state.  Popular sessions that arm 50-plus Montanans and their families with crucial information about caregiving, fraud prevention and more were canceled. 

Ward, who lives in Billings, borrowed a quote from AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus in describing how volunteers and staff responded.  “She got mad, but then she got organized,” Ward 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 fun, free virtual events, from Trivia Night, HomeFit webinars and Fraud Fighting to couch concerts with HomeStream Your Helena Symphony and The Myrna SoundStage.  A recent One Day University Lecture Series was on Understanding Memory. Another is on Four Paintings Every Art Lover Should See.

Tuesday Tips webinars have explored estate planning with one of Montana’s foremost experts on the subject, Dr. Marsha Goetting, a professor with Montana State University.

Other topics have included Decluttering & Downsizing and Caregiving during Covid. Every event includes a question-and-answer session.

A popular walking series returns in May – the NeighborWalk group incorporates video chats with information sharing and independent walking.

“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 Nancy Andersen, AARP Montana’s Outreach Director.

Easing Isolation by staying connected

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 Ward, who began volunteering for AARP over a dozen years ago. “It’s great to see all the faces on the computer screen and be able to interact with others.”

Although there were challenges at first, like getting everyone familiar with the technology, Ward said the virtual sessions have brought new opportunities.  Volunteers who don’t want to give presentations can help run the live webinars by monitoring 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 Billings, I might not want to drive to Helena for a concert or presentation, but I can stay right at home and watch it,” Ward noted.

Ward also heads up the Fraud Watch Friday radio program for the state office – serving as a co-host with Tom Schultz on the Voices of Montana show airing statewide on Northern Broadcasting. The first Friday of every month features a new fraud topic.

“Radio offers another terrific avenue for virtual engagement – especially for those with limited internet capability,” said Ward. Fraud Watch Friday is scheduled to resume in May of 2021.

“These virtual events have been so popular, we plan to continue them into 2021 and beyond,” concluded Andersen. “We’re finding that it is a more efficient and effective way for people to engage.  Folks are learning a lot and having fun at the same time – and that is what our mission is all about.”

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. Check out our events page for all of our offerings. Go to for a list of offerings.

For past webinars and other events, check out our on-demand webinar library.

More on Connecting Virtually

This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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