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Engaging seniors with ‘Sandel at Home’ in Rockville Centre

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The Village of Rockville Centre’s Sandel Senior Center, on South Park Avenue, remains temporarily closed, but its staff is working hard to keep senior residents connected while physically apart.

“The Sandel Center is still here for you,” the center’s debut newsletter read in June. “It’s just in a different form.”

“Sandel at Home” is a culmination of the senior center’s efforts to connect with seniors from a distance with virtual programming. “Studies shows that isolation is extremely bad for the health of older people,” O’Leary explained, “and our mission has always been to engage seniors.”

Mainly, the six full-time staff members do this through a television program, Sandel TV, which launched in April. It airs daily on the village’s station — channel 18 on Optimum and 37 on Verizon Fios — at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and is posted to the village website under “Senior Services.”

The TV program incorporates normal Sandel activities in a digital format. The same fitness instructors that members used to see in person guide them in routines on the screen. Also, rather than lectures at the center, O’Leary conducts interviews with community leaders for the show.

“We’re trying to reproduce a lot of programs they would have been getting here [in the TV show],” O’Leary said. “All their favorite instructors are on TV talking to them as if they’re in the room.”

Sandel TV is broken up into two parts: Fitness and Lifestyle. In the fitness section, instructors guide seniors in full body workouts, Tai Chi, yoga, dancing and other physical activities. In the lifestyle section, O’Leary interviews a new community leader each episode; then, there could be art demonstrations, musical performances and more.

In the latest episode, O’Leary interviewed Dr. Matthew Jay Reifler, a sleep specialist from Northwell Health, for an informative session about sleep habits and tips for a good night’s rest. Also in the lifestyle segment, there was an art demonstration and performance by musician Jim Papa. In the fitness portion, there was a full body workout lesson, line dancing class and Tai Chi presented by Lynbrook Restorative Therapy and Nursing.

Sandel puts out a biweekly newsletter that largely reflects the programming that’s aired on television for those two weeks. The theme of the newsletter is “maintaining connections while social distancing,” and it helps to promote the virtual activities.

Upcoming — Sandel will host virtual Bingo on Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Also, Sandel staff members have been checking up on senior residents via telephone calls and holding Zoom lunch chats so members can see and speak with one another.

Seniors who are not familiar with Zoom and wish to participate can call (516) 678-9245. Staff members will walk them through how to get set up with the program.

“It’s very important to keep people engaged while they’re isolated,” O’Leary noted. “We’ve done everything we can to reach out and maintain connections while social distancing.”

To learn more about “Sandel at Home,” visit rvcny.gov/watch-sandel-tv.