The YMCA of Greater Toronto officially launched The Bright Spot, an online community where older adults can shine. It offers everything from exercise classes and small online group discussions to trivia nights and mindfulness tutorials — all free of charge.
For more than 165 years, the Y has been there for communities, adapting to local needs. With an increased need to stay home due to COVID-19, the charity recognizes that older community members face challenges including connecting with friends and loved ones and maintaining routines, like walking, that are necessary for physical and mental health.
"Adapting to meet changing community needs is in the Y's DNA, so it's only natural that we're responding to support older adults who are facing unique challenges," said Medhat Mahdy, President & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto. "We understand how important it is for everyone's well-being to maintain connections, stay active and keep learning. By launching The Bright Spot – a free online community featuring health and fitness classes, group discussions, and social activities – we hope to brighten the lives of older adults during this challenging time."
The Bright Spot offers a variety of live online classes and activities, including exercise programs like yoga and dance; social activities like Bingo and trivia; opportunities to participate in virtual chats; as well as information about community resources to help older adults at home. For timely assistance, the website features a LiveChat function to help people navigate the site and speak with someone about how the Y can help.
"Like many other older Canadians staying home a lot more than usual, I was feeling especially drained and having a hard time keeping up with my regular routine. Having access to a resource to help me keep busy and connect with others is so important," says Tom Churchill, a YMCA of Greater Toronto member who provided feedback on the beta site. "The Bright Spot helps me exercise in my living room and make some new friends along the way. I miss going to the Y and meeting friends at a local coffee shop – this helps me feel less isolated."
This online community serves as a platform to provide older adults with the necessary tools to maintain routine and connection in a time of physical distancing, by meeting new people, exercising, enjoying favourite activities and trying new ones – all from the comfort and safety of their homes.
The Y is grateful to HomeEquity Bank, the provider of the CHIP Reverse Mortgage, for its generous $50,000 donation in support of The Bright Spot. Steven Ranson, HomeEquity Bank President and CEO and a member of the YMCA of Greater Toronto's Strong Start, Great Future Campaign Cabinet, commended this new initiative, saying: "Supporting older Canadians at home as they self-isolate is critical and we are proud to support the Y's innovative approach in developing this very important virtual community."
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces everyone to adapt their daily lives, the Y is stepping up to do even more.
The Y is also providing emergency child care for essential frontline workers, shelter and support for youth experiencing homelessness, and remote employment services for people who need work. The Y has set up a fund to support these efforts. Until the end of May, every dollar donated will be matched through the Nesbitt-Lawlor Family Matching Grant.
For more information on The Bright Spot, visit: thebrightspotymca.ca.