Gateways recreation goes online to boost social connection in isolation

Girl Dancing At Home

Western Melbourne adult participants usually meet up with each other in person to go on exciting recreation camps and day trips around Melbourne.   

But since we’ve all needed to bunker down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, adult recreation participants have instead been accessing a range of social activities online. Gateways’ online program comprises a series of regular interactive activities based around the premise that ‘social distancing doesn’t mean you need to be lonely’.   

The online activities give participants the chance to meet new friends, enjoy a range of engaging social activities and continue to learn and experience new things despite the social distancing measures. 

Gateways Western Melbourne Recreation Coordinator, Mandy Pitt, says the first online Zumba class last Wednesday night was a big hit, with participants and staff alike busting moves from the comfort of their homes. 

“These changes to routine brought about by COVID-19 can be incredibly difficult for people with autism and/or intellectual difficulties and we are hoping this contact will assist with that,” Mandy says.  

“They’re quite easy to get onto and we have the technical support to help get you setup over the phone as well”, says Mandy. 

Whether it is relaxing and watching a movie at a ‘Netflix Party’, some friendly competition in a game of bingo, getting active in one of the weekly Zumba dance classes or even learning to prepare a new dish in the soon to begin cooking classes, there is something to suit all interests.  

Mandy says the Netflix Party and Zoom Zumba are designed to replicate the recreation groups usual in-person fortnightly movie outing and dance class.   

She says the online Zumba class is run by the participants’ usual instructor, Mary Jane, which ensures they can feel comfortable joining in with a familiar face. 

“Tomas, Stefan and Pete arrived ready for action. Amy was a little shy at first but before long she was busting the moves like a champ,” Mandy says.  

Tomas, a regular Zumba class participant, says he enjoyed learning new dance moves and meeting new people. 

“I thought it was a good idea so that I can see people and talk a little bit online face to face”, says Tomas, who also logged on for the online bingo session. 

He says the activities help him to feel connected and give him the opportunity to catch up with friends. 

Stefan, who is also a Zumba fan says he was happy to hear about the online activities to add variety to his day and give him the chance to see his friends.

He encouraged others to give it a go saying, ‘You can meet new friends, do a lot of activities and try new ones that you’ve never done before’.

The online Zumba class can be adapted for different fitness and mobility levels, with time factored in for relaxed chit chat, giving participants the opportunity to catch up with old friends, or perhaps to make new ones, in a relaxed and safe online setting.  

As well as being safe and accessible, Mandy says Gateways Online Recreation activities enable participants from areas beyond western Melbourne to join in. 

Stay tuned for more additions to the Gateways Online Recreation program, with cooking classes starting in May for adults and children, as well as Minecraft sessions and other surprises. Check our COVID-19 Updated Services page for the latest news on our fun, safe and accessible online programs.

(Main photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash)

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