The Helm at the Boll Life Center reopened July 20 with extra health safety measures in place, such as temperature checks for everyone entering the building.

The Helm at the Boll Life Center reopened July 20 with extra health safety measures in place, such as temperature checks for everyone entering the building.

Photo provided by Karen Fontanive


The Helm resuming classes with extra health measures in place

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published July 23, 2020

 Socially distanced yoga classes are among the programs for seniors.

Socially distanced yoga classes are among the programs for seniors.

Photo provided by Karen Fontanive

 Rosa Hunter leads the Helm’s Seated Full Body Workout Routine fitness program outdoors to help people remain socially distanced.

Rosa Hunter leads the Helm’s Seated Full Body Workout Routine fitness program outdoors to help people remain socially distanced.

Photo provided by Karen Fontanive

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The Helm at the Boll Life Center is welcoming back senior citizens from the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods to take part in programs after suspending operations at its Grosse Pointe Farms center due to the COVID-19 quarantine.

Classes resumed July 20. Although it had some limited programs that continued online or over apps such as Zoom, most of its activities had to be canceled to ensure its members did not pass on or contract the disease.

“We’re trying to slowly reactivate our programs. We’re so looking forward to seeing our members again. It’s been a long four months,” Executive Director Peggy Hayes said. “Our focus is on bringing our programs back while maintaining safety. We want to ensure we are still serving the people we have always served.”

Hayes said many of their members expressed their eagerness for programs to start again once more.

“One of the things we’ve found surveying our members is that they miss our activities and seeing their friends,” she said. “A lot of seniors are home alone now and can’t see many of their family members except on things like Zoom. We thought we could bring people together while still ensuring they’re far enough apart to be safe.”

Rosa Hunter is the instructor for the Helm’s Seated Full Body Workout Routine fitness program. She said extra precautions are being put in place to ensure the safety of participants.

“Normally my classes are at 30 students, and now we are at 10 students per class,” explained Hunter. “Masks are required and, fortunately, they don’t really hinder (the class). We’ll be doing it outdoors whenever possible anyway and keeping people 6 feet apart.”

“We ask people to arrive early since we are performing a series of questions about COVID symptoms and a temperature test before they can enter the building,” added Hayes. “We do require masks in the building except while they are physically exercising. We ask they provide their own water bottles for safety.”

The Helm will be offering a variety of programs, with its full catalogue viewable on its website, helmlife.org.

“Some of the things we’re bringing back are some of our less strenuous exercise classes,” said Hayes. “We’re doing some yoga, tai-chi and chair yoga. Previously, people could just drop in when they wanted to take the classes, but now we ask that they register since we have a maximum class size of 10 for safety purposes.”

For those who want to learn to communicate remotely with family and friends, the Helm will instruct people on using the popular videoconferencing technology known as Zoom.

“We’re having a How to Zoom class, since everyone is being forced to talk to their family that way. We will teach people that at the center,” said Hayes. “This is free to our members. We’ll also have a virtual ‘Jeopardy!’ class, which is just for fun, and we will show people how to do this on the Zoom app. That will be totally online.”

Hayes said other non-exercise classes will continue as well.

“We’re teaching a virtual workshop about elder law,” she said. “This will cover power of attorney and guardianship and so forth. It’s online, so there’s no class size limit, but people do need to register.”

Additionally, the Helm’s meal program will continue, albeit in a more quarantine-friendly manner.

“We’re continuing our lunches. They are now carryout meals for those who want some food. We are, however, inviting up to 24 people to stay and have their lunch here,” said Hayes. “We are reactivating our movie program. It won’t include lunch as it did in the past, but it will offer snacks. We can hold up to 20 people in that program. … Some of our other clubs, such as blanket making and knitting, also will be returning with limited class sizes.”

Hunter said the classes are returning at popular demand and that she has had several participants talk to her during the quarantine asking when they could resume.

“They were calling me to ask when we were coming back. I even started a Zoom exercise class that we were running while we were closed down,” she remarked. “I saw one of my students in the store today. She said she was so excited. Some of the others have been asking me for weeks when we were starting up again.”

Hunter stressed how important programs such as those at the Helm can be for senior citizens, who often have limited opportunities to socialize.

“A lot of these people are alone,” she said. “Social isolation is not good for the body or mind. It can lead to depression, so it’s important that we have these programs in public spaces for them to get together. It lets them socialize and laugh, and that laughter is important. It’s what’s missing when you are alone at home. It also inspires them to keep going when they see someone older than themselves succeeding.”