Lockdown has not stopped members of Groundwork London’s over 55 dance and social club ‘Silver Active’ from keeping on moving.
This group of ‘Silver Activists’, many of whom are amongst the vulnerable group advised by Government to shield themselves during the Coronavirus pandemic, have been meeting weekly on Zoom to dance to reggae music, keep fit and have a chat.
The charity Groundwork London partners with Homes for Haringey to run the free ‘Silver Active’ programme and has brought their sessions online for the summer. The programme is funded by Comic Relief.
Having a rich life online depends on having access to technology and the know-how to use it, so Groundwork has also been supporting participants to get connected and get confident with tools like Zoom.
The new online programme includes weekly ‘Tea and Chat’ sessions, ‘Stretch and Strengthen’ classes and instructor Sharon’s special blend of dance, fitness and reggae music, ‘Reggaetivity’. This session aims to combine a celebration of the music, heritage and culture of the Caribbean community in London with an inclusive approach to fitness.
Silver Activists also have the option to take part in chair-based danced sessions, and the club is free and open to anyone over 55.
Instructor Sharon Marshall said: “Reggaetivity connects communities by name and nature. Our sessions are engaging, interactive and help to combat isolation.
“We promote inclusion and celebrate diversity by welcoming people from all backgrounds to come together and enjoy the music and dance, as well as creating a space to chat and share experiences.
“We hope that Reggaetivity helps to improve social cohesion by enjoying these experiences together. I’ve seen boosts in self-confidence, self-esteem and self-empowerment in participants and friendships being formed - even digitally!”
While online activities cannot replace the loss of being around loved ones, having a jam-packed online social calendar is becoming more common for some of London’s over-55s.
Joanna, a Haringey resident and Silver Active participant said: “I really appreciate the fitness sessions with Sharon and visual tips to remind us of home exercises. I take part in other Zoom sessions on a daily basis, but I cannot miss Sharon’s dance session on Thursdays.
“Seeing other participants engaging and listening to Sharon's encouragement makes my day even when I feel low on some days.”
Reflecting on how the Silver Active project has adapted during lockdown, Naomi Freeman, Senior Community Project Officer at Groundwork London, said: “Like many projects, the Covid-19 period has encouraged us to adapt Silver Active in ways we didn’t even know were possible.
“Being able to provide a space where the community can socialise and be active together online has been a challenging yet rewarding experience.
“Sharon has inspired individuals to come together, stay positive and keep active during what is a very difficult time. I am so excited that we have been able to extend our weekly programme and encourage new dancers across London to get online and join the fun.”
All sessions are free and participants can live anywhere in London. Further information and the full Silver Active programme can be found online here. To refer someone or take part yourself, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pic credit: Jo Chukualim, Comic Relief