It’s awkward — and at times uncomfortable — but even vulnerable seniors say they’re pushing themselves to get out and embrace an active life again.

CBC dropped in on a Zoom-based seated-yoga class recently to talk with those making a very safe choice. Even this group says they’re being cautious, wearing masks, but starting to go out.

“In the past month, I’ve been out to a few things where there is more people and not wearing masks. It’s kind of a little disconcerting at first. You feel like, what should we be doing?” said Marleen Foch, speaking up first.

“I’ve been out a little more, masking sometimes and not other times,” she said. “People are more vaccinated or have had COVID so there’s that immunity around. I don’t feel quite the same as at the beginning of the pandemic when you didn’t know what was going to happen.”

In this pandemic, older adults have always been the most vulnerable. And COVID deaths in Alberta remain high. The province announced another 51 deaths last week.

Looking at the wastewater reports, the level of virus in the community remains higher than it had been during many previous peaks. And when the province last reported, it said 50 people had been admitted to hospital because of COVID in the last seven days, and 66 people were admitted because COVID made their symptoms worse.

The Zoom class for chair yoga is put on by the Northern Hills Community Association. Seniors connect from home, then stay seated as an instructor has them take deep breaths, do gentle stretches and visualize a peaceful walk through nature.

It’s a social moment, good for the body and low risk.

‘I try to be careful’

Corinne Cruickshank, another Zoom yoga participant, said it’s important for her to push herself.

“Personally, I’m immunocompromised and [I’m being] very careful still. But I’m trying to do more things and try to get on with life as much as possible,” she said.

“Because you still have to build up some kind of immune system. If you put yourself in a box all the time, then you’re going to catch everything. I’m trying to find that balance and it’s not easy sometimes.”

Classmate Mary Saretsky said she’s there, too: “Just sort of evaluating where I’m going and I wear masks when I’m in a building of some kind. But I meet with friends.”

“It’s at a point where you have to go out, this is it. And we don’t hear anything about the numbers so you forget to a point.”

“But [the pandemic] is still on,” added Beatrice Theriault. “I try to be careful.”

Isolation caused by pandemic restrictions has been hard on many people. That may be part of why half of Canadians said their mental health worsened in the last two years, in a March poll by Angus Reid. The same polling company found four in five Canadians now believe a COVID infection would be mild, or at least manageable.

That’s part of why other organizations serving seniors moved to in-person activities more quickly.

At Confederation Park 55 Plus, nearly all programming is now in person. Executive director Jeannette Provo says their attendance is back to about 75 per cent of what it was pre-COVID and staff are trying to stay in touch to support those still uncomfortable or with health that’s too fragile to come back.

“We opened September 2021 to our membership. They came back in droves; our classes are full,” said Provo, who turned 65 herself during the pandemic. “We know they wanted it as much as we did. And when they’re at the end of their life, they don’t want to sit locked up in their houses. Time is short for them; they want to live their life.”

Confederation Park required all members to be vaccinated early on, and for the one class that’s still online, it’s because the instructor isn’t vaccinated.

For the Zoom yoga group in Northern Hills, organizer Jay Emond says he hopes they’ll be back in person soon. He says virtual programing has been tough; they’ve lost a lot of members.

“But coming back from the ashes, slowly. I’m hoping by the fall.”

Recommended Webinar: Elder Abuse & COVID-19


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Author: Elise Stolte