Online Resilience Course for Seniors

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Brian Dooney, course director.

An online resilience course for people in Kildare feeling vulnerable or isolated after their experiences during the pandemic starts today, writing Brian Byrne. The four Monday sessions by April 4 will be replicated in a second four-Thursday course beginning March 31.

The initiative is at the request of Kildare Older Voices and is delivered by Age and Opportunity Ireland. “It’s for anyone trying to re-engage with the way things were or get back to activities,” says course director Brian Dooney, “to build a little bit of resilience by getting back to normal life.”

The course was originally set up for people who are preparing for transitions in their lives, such as retirement. “It has been developed to help people tap into the resources they have within to cope with such changes. When Older Voices Kildare approached us it was because there was a need felt to cause of the pandemic to help people build resilience.”

The format is based on encouraging people to take a look at some of the challenges they have faced in their lives so far and the lessons they have been able to learn from them and the resources they have. they have accumulated in themselves. “We’re not doing this to dwell on the past, but to see what we’ve learned that would benefit not just the present but in relation to the future.”

Brian Dooney says people have many resources within them that they don’t always recognize, often simple things that may have helped them cope with situations in the past.

“A lot of people forget about those resources they’ve accumulated, and on some level they sleep. And while we can all think for ourselves, there’s real value in doing it with other people. Hear the experiences of others can ignite sparks of connection with our own.”

Central to the concept is that “life is our own textbook” and that when it comes to resilience, there are multiple paths to reach the destination. “If a person has discovered something that serves them well and shares it with others, we find that each of us has different resilience building blocks, which can often include connections with other people.” A key tenet is that resilience is not about “enduring and going it alone”, but staying connected with people and the community generally yields much better results. “It’s a personal resource, but it’s also a collective resource, which can be accessed by getting involved in the community.”

The course’s original design was for in-person group discussions, but the pandemic has forced a shift to using Zoom, and for now that’s how delivery is still handled. “Ideally we would prefer to be back with an in-person activity, as we had been doing for a year and a half before Covid arrived. But the pandemic has proven to be one of the biggest life transitions that many people have had to deal with and we’re still running it online in what you might call a ‘transition’ phase until we get the green light to resume in-person sessions.”

That said, Brian Dooney says he was surprised at how the participants adjusted to attending the online course, and they actually missed the contacts at the end. “I guess the lesson is that we’re very adaptable, and there was also a benefit of Zoom that we were able to bring people together from different parts of the country, which we never would have been able to do in person.” Although Brian says the positive element of give and take that can happen in a room isn’t as easy to achieve online.

Feedback on the course since its inauguration has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants generally saying they really enjoyed hearing about others’ experiences. Ideally, 12-15 participants in a course is considered ideal, although Age and Opportunity have run a few with 20 or more. Class sessions take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day. Those interested in the course should contact Fiona at [email protected], providing an email and postal address.

Age and Opportunity was established in 1988 to build positivity around aging and is heavily involved in encouraging older adults to participate in the arts, sports, and other personal development activities. It’s all part of promoting the creativity and worth of older people and combating stereotypes and negative opinions about aging.

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