By Stephen Braun and Elizabeth Welsh
Amherst Neighbors, a new organization serving older people in Amherst and Pelham, has launched a set of free virtual gatherings to build a sense of community among residents.
Amherst Neighbors was primed to launch its volunteer program on March 29, just as the COVID-19 lockdown was getting started. The organizers had planned to offer a wide range of assistance to older adults in Amherst and Pelham. However, the pandemic, spurred the group to find other ways to support local older adults. A variety of virtual programs are now in place to achieve that goal while being inviting, welcoming, and safe.
“While we may not be able to gather in person, I am excited that we can still gather,” said Amherst Neighbors member Sue Lowery.
The offerings are varied and arise from a recent Amherst Neighbors survey. For example, Caroline Lederman loves writing, so she is leading a series titled “Coffee, Tea, and Writing.” Janet Bunce has deep experience working with older people and held a talk on “Gerotranscendence.” Art historian Gary Tartakov shared his knowledge about Indian Dalits in art. And Linda Terry and Pat Romney love cultivating conversation so they hosted the series “Virtual Dialogues: Inviting Connection, Compassion, and Community in the Time of COVID-19.”
Recent feedback from attendees to such virtual gatherings has been positive. One person, writing about an event led by physician Ann Nugent on Medical Advocacy, said: “My thanks go out to Anne and Linda for making this meeting happen. My first zoom meeting was grand and I could not believe how easy it was to join it. The info for connecting up was clear and easy or I would never have been there as a non-technological participant! I didn’t want to see it end but the length was probably right and practical. I most enjoyed the informality and ease of participation in the event.”
Another participant from the Virtual Dialogue Series commented, “I would like our group to continue. This has been a great opportunity to make wonderful new Amherst connections. This has been a group of such bright, interesting, compassionate, sophisticated, and socially-involved people. Let’s keep the conversation going!”
More gatherings are scheduled and others are in the works including “Fully Living in a Pandemic through the Eyes of a Geriatrician” with Dr. Rebecca Starr, “Guiding Questions for End of Life Planning” with Dr. Jeffrey Zesiger, a book discussion of “This Chair Rocks” on ageism, and another Virtual Dialogue series.
“I am so glad that we have an online platform that allows us to get together,” said Amherst Neighbors board member Carlie Tartakov,.
To learn more, including how to access the gatherings via the Zoom platform, visit www.amherstneighbors.org. One can register by clicking on “upcoming events” or on the calendar. There are no fees for either the virtual programs or membership with Amherst Neighbors.
Questions can be directed to Amherst Neighbors at:
Phone: (413) 345-2555.
Michael Greenebaum and Debora Bridges at an Amherst Neighbors Gathering in February 2020. Photo: Gary Tartakov