For many seniors, staying active throughout the pandemic has become increasingly difficult. However, it’s never been more important with the stress of COVID-19.

Maria Payne, an activities coordinator, has found new ways for seniors at the James Valley Community Center in Mitchell to safely partake in activities through it all. With higher mortality rates among adults aged 60 and older who contract COVID-19, paired with the recommended social distancing guidelines, Payne said she’s had to get creative to provide senior members at the JVCC with monthly schedules full of activities.

“It was tough to have to completely change our weekly activity routine when the virus hit, but some of the new things we’ve been doing to stay safe have actually been a lot of fun for members,” Payne said. “Routine is so important for everyone, especially with age.”

Among some of the activities that Payne has drummed up amid the pandemic include solo line dancing, shuffleboard and cribbage. They’ve also proven to be safe, as Payne said there hasn’t been any COVID-19 spreading directly linked to the JVCC.

With the stress of the pandemic and social isolation that many seniors have been experiencing, the line dancing and shuffleboard activities help fill that void, as Payne said they’re both very interactive.

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“It’s a really good workout that has an element of fun and creativity with the music component,” Payne said of line dancing. “Research has shown that line dancing improves cardiovascular function, bone strength and brain function. It also helps gain muscle memory.”

The activities that have been on the JVCC calendar over the past year exercise different parts of the body, which Payne said is key to staying healthy. Payne noted many of the JVCC activities improve coordination in a variety of different ways without putting strain on the body. For example, ping pong and shuffleboard both improve hand eye coordination.

While physical exercise is critical to maintaining wellness, Payne said the card games like cribbage can be just as important considering studies have shown they improve cognitive function.

“Exercising the brain is another part of building a healthy immune system. Cribbage and pinochle are just two of many games that help the cognitive side of things,” she said.

Considering some seniors have been forced to limit or eliminate visits to their loved ones and friends who may be in a nursing home or assisted living center, it can take a toll on one’s mental health. While the degree of social isolation may vary among senior members at the JVCC, Payne said she’s been encouraging anyone struggling with mental health to seek necessary help.

Although routine exercise for seniors is vital, nutrition also plays a large role to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Jessica Pickett, community services director with the city of Mitchell, emphasized the importance of proper dieting, as well. She said

“With the pandemic, it is becoming more important for people to be healthier and eat right, along with exercising. Getting that daily intake of the food groups like fruits, vegetables, protein and grains helps maximize the exercise and activity that our members regularly do,” Pickett said. “Eating right doesn’t just help the body, it helps the mind.”