The Gooroo Senior Center Initiative
At Gooroo, we believe in lifelong learning for all. Teaching and learning are core parts of daily life, no matter your age. There’s always the opportunity to reflect on yourself, grow, and learn something new! Gooroo’s Senior Center Initiative supports our vision to provide the elderly community access to high quality and engaging educational offerings.
Gooroo has been working with several different senior centers throughout the United States for over three years. We provide personalized learning programs in a range of different subjects. Some of these include Spanish, music, meditation, history, and more.
The importance of lifelong learning
Gooroo’s programs strive to improve the skills and knowledge of senior citizens. Learning new subjects allows people to socialize and raise their quality of life. Many studies have shown the numerous benefits that come from senior citizens pursuing lifelong learning.
A study conducted at the University of Texas at Dallas assigned 200 senior citizens to different activities to test their memory. Neuroscientist, Dr. Denise Park stated that “we found quite an improvement in memory [in those who learned a new skill].”
Another study showed that different mentally challenging activities may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University reviewed different activities that people do in their free time. Neurologist David Bennet, director of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago “tends to believe that using your mind and keeping busy may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive decline.”
Overall, it has been proven that taking a class and learning something new can improve cognitive abilities and increase memory.
A new era in senior outreach
In the age of social distancing, the Gooroo Senior Center Initiative is taking measures into its own hands to foster community connectivity. With the help of one of our long-time instructors, Amelia, Gooroo is partnering with Sage NYC to continue to bring Spanish lessons to the senior community while everyone must be physically apart.
The Gooroo Senior Center Initiative has been particularly impactful throughout the pandemic. The senior population, more than any demographic, has been facing the fallout of social distancing. Unable to meet with family and friends, many seniors are facing boredom and loneliness. As Amelia noted, “after the senior centers closed their doors, many of our elderly were struggling with depression.”
Luckily, Amelia has been generating a new curriculum for her students. She has been connecting New York seniors at different centers across the boroughs of the city. Amelia has been teaching senior students, ever since she moved to New York four years ago from Spain. A former teacher in Granada, she wanted to share her passion for Spanish with students of all ages. However, like many of us, she had to get creative in the age of COVID-19. “We had to think of something fast and offer our classes online… it’s a way of fighting isolation.”
So far Amelia’s remote Spanish lessons have been a wild success. “I am constantly amazed by the dedication of my students,” she says laughing, as we discuss her curriculum over the phone. “My students are so passionate about the work that they are doing. They send me emails upon emails with extra homework.”
Gooroo embraces culinary arts
In fact, Amelia’s students were so enthusiastic about her Spanish lessons, that they asked her to start teaching some cooking lessons, featuring traditional Spanish dishes! Amelia, an avid cook, was excited and surprised when one of her students asked her to model making paella. However, this new frontier of teaching had unprecedented challenges. How would seniors get groceries?
Amelia didn’t want to teach recipes that would require seniors to find new ingredients and risk potential exposure to the virus. Always up for a challenge, she began creating and selecting recipes that featured ingredients that could be substituted. “I told them that it shouldn’t be a problem, because I have selected recipes that they can change and adjust to with whatever ingredients they have at home.”
Cooking lessons are set to start this week, and Amelia is excited to start with the basics. First up on the recipe list is a the traditional Spanish Omelette. The hope is that the seniors will be able to incorporate new recipes into their everyday schedules. In a time when they cannot go out into the world, Amelia is bringing the world to them!
In a moment where the news cycle is mostly negative, I couldn’t help but feel Amelia’s optimism and excitement wearing off on me. Her sincerity and passion was contagious. Although she attributes the success of her lessons to “the planets aligning,” I can tell that her care for her students is bringing learning to life. When she called me from a garden in the Bronx, there were birds chirping in the background. She laughs a lot when she speaks of her students. “They put so much into it. The motivation that they have is amazing.”
Across New York, pockets of the most vulnerable demographic of the population are remaining engaged in learning, even amidst all of their fear and isolation; this is a quiet victory that we can all celebrate. As I headed to bed tonight, uncertain of what the coming day will bring, I couldn’t help but think of all of the lamp-lit windows somewhere on the nearby horizon. Across this city, seniors are burning the midnight oil, connecting with one another, and even experimenting in their kitchens. Their perseverance speaks to the power of education. Through sharing in ideas, we can all connect with one another. It is a beautiful reminder that learning can flourish at any age and amidst even the most trying circumstances.
Would you like to learn more about Gooroo’s programming with senior centers? You can inquire and see how we can partner with your senior center by going here.