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¡Bien Conectado !
In 2019, Well Connected, Covia’s lifelong learning and engagement program, launched a sister program, Well Connected Español (WCE). WCE is the first program of its kind, designed specifically to engage Spanish-speaking older adults living throughout the United States with virtual classes and activities accessible by phone or online. It provides intellectual stimulation and meaningful human connection and mitigates the escalating crisis of social isolation and loneliness among older adults, a critical issue in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. WCE specifically targets those who are hardest to reach due to barriers such as language, health, economic, and social factors. The program is designed to adapt to participants’ needs and be accessible to those with impairments related to mobility, vision, memory, and literacy.
WCE engages the community to shape its curriculum, with over 80% designed and 50% led by participants. “Facilitating WCE groups is very satisfying for me,” says Ana, a WCE facilitator and participant. “Connecting with other people who I do not personally know and to be able to cultivate a friendship and a strong affinity towards them is a great pleasure.”
Participation in WCE has more than tripled since its launch. More than 76 group conversation offerings include topics such as fitness, popular culture, games, and travel. With the onset of the pandemic, WCE responded to urgent demand for programming to reduce COVID-associated anxieties and included offerings related to stress management, gratitude, health, and wellness. As members of the Covia community, WCE participants also have direct access to a wide continuum of programs, including information and referral services. “I joined WCE out of curiosity. It has helped me so much and keeps me happy. In the group we all get along really well as if we were old friends,” says Ruben, a WCE facilitator and participant.
WCE has also been able to partner with other Spanish-speaking organizations to host virtual resource and learning events. Well Connected Español hosted Envejeciendo con Propósito (Aging with Purpose) for Spanish-speaking Older Adults in October as part the Binational California-Mexico Health Initiative. The event was hosted in collaboration with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, Alzheimer’s Association-Northern California, San Francisco AIDS Foundation – Latino Programs, ON LOK Lifeways, Mexico’s General Consulate and Health Initiative of the Americas. WCE also offered the Mente Sana Cuerpo Sano (Healthy Mind, Healthy Body) series in collaboration with Psicologia & Educacion Global. This four-week series focused on sharing ideas and advice on mental health that help to achieve well-being. Topics ranged from How to Keep Memory Active to strategies for dealing with Worry and Anxiousness, Sadness and Depression, and Loneliness and Isolation.
“We are grateful to all the new partnerships and collaborations we have been able to build during this last year and we hope they will continue to grow and flourish. We look forward to what the future holds for our Well Connected Español community,” says Lizette Suarez, WCE director.