“All right this is Spencer Gee with your Tai Chi workout,” said Spencer Gee, a fitness instructor for senior centers as he started his Glen Cove Senior Center Facebook live-stream on April 27.
Gee has been working with the center for five years and it was his work in Glen Cove that got him further work with other senior centers. He specializes in working with adults with Parkinson’s disease and teaching martial arts with longevity techniques that help individuals maintain bone density and balance. Eventually, he was able to develop his Tai Chi program.
“It’s given [my students] a fresh approach for doing an exercise that’s out of the box,” Gee said. “It’s not taught in a way where they’re being spoon fed a watered down approach to exercise. As a matter of fact, their work-out programs are very challenging.”
The Glen Cove Senior Center closed its doors on March 12 complying with an order from the Nassau County Department of Human Services that all senior social activities and programs close.
“Once we knew that we had to close, we thought it was extremely important to stay connected as possible to our members,” said Christine Rice, the executive director of the Glen Cove Senior Center. “We didn’t know how long this pandemic was going to be, so we started immediately thinking about online programming that we can do.”
The center has put together a daily schedule of programs that are available on www.glencoveseniorcenter.com and the Glen Cove Senior Center Facebook page. The programs range from concerts to art and fitness classes.
Gee said that the Glen Cove Senior Center reached out to him to do the live-streams, adding that he was happy to keep in touch with his students. Through the live-streams, he has had to make a few changes in the way that he would usually hold a class in person.
“I have to use different techniques to maintain their attention,” Gee said. “That’s why I’m using supplies you would use in your house, like dish soap, paper towels, cartons of milk, water bottles; putting them into a pot or pan to make a make-shift resistance tool. Not everybody have dumbbells or barbells that you find in a gym.”
Rachel Thayer, a member of the Glen Cove Senior Center, said that she was interested in taking some gym classes, but her digital prayer groups conflict with the classes. Even in a time of quarantine, she’s found herself to be quite busy.
“I like to keep busy,” Thayer said. “I make masks for my friends and other people. I try baking and cooking new recipes once in a while. It’s still busy, but you know . . . not hectic.”
Instead, she’s been enjoying a watercolor painting classes with Chuck Van Horn that she attended prior to the stay-at-home order.
“The first time I watched, my heart skipped,” said Thayer, who has been taking the class for a year. “It was just so comforting. He would say things he would say during the class.”
Rice said that she believed it was important that members continue to see their instructors to continue some sense of normalcy. “They’re very happy to be able to be a part of the center and continue their schedule,” Rice said. “Obviously, the socialization is a piece and we want to make sure people don’t feel isolated on their own. So they have really loved the fact that they can see their instructors.”
Right now Thayer is not following along with the class. Instead, she has been closely watching what he does to learn his technique. “It’s learning to mix colors and learning how to use the brush,” Thayer said. “I think it’s a very beautiful form.”
Besides being able to partake in classes, Thayer said that she and other members have received phone calls from the staff at the senior center. Videos of the staff greeting the members have also been included on the center’s Facebook page. The staff has also been connecting members to one-another through Zoom meetings.
“All of the Glen Cove Senior Center staff have been working tirelessly to connect on a daily basis with each member,” Rice said. “Delivery, phone connection, socialization . . . Our members mean so much to us and we want to stay as connected as possible with them. And they love the programming. We’re getting more and more calls saying ‘how do I get on?’”
The Glen Cove Senior Center has meals available for delivery for residents of Glen Cove, Sea Cliff, Glen Head and Glenwood Landing that are over 60. Call (516) 759-9610 for more information.