Expanding OSPN’s Virtual Capacities and Connections

The Coordinating Committee of the Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN) is reaching out to you as a member of the Network to check in, to update you on a few interesting developments and to hear your ideas on how we can best support you in the coming months.

We sincerely hope that you are managing well during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The uncertainty and upheaval that the pandemic has caused has affected us all in a variety of ways.  Even with the nicer weather, many of us are still not feeling safe leaving our homes or apartments and we can’t participate in social activities safely the way we used to.  This really takes a toll on how we enjoy our community and friends and how we are feeling.

Our usual ways of connecting OSPN members of the network have all been changed by the measures in place to contain the spread of the virus. Dances, bowling, in-person men’s and women’s groups and dinners have all been postponed indefinitely.  It is not clear when we will be able to connect in person again.  We know that many of you are missing these social outlets and we are eager to provide new options.

Although we can’t plan events as we had hoped to do, many seniors groups are testing other options to connect with their communities with great success using virtual platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Facebook Live.  In fact, OSPN has continued to run the Older and Bolder group for older lesbians through Zoom and it has proven to be of great support to its members.

OSPN, like many other senior organizations, has recently received funding to help find ways to remain connected to our community in these unusual times.  Funds have come from three sources, the United Way, New Horizons for Seniors and the City of Ottawa.  We are pleased to be recognized as an important organization serving the LGBTTQ2 senior community.  The Good Companions Centre has kindly offered to help with the administration of these funds, which is excellent news.

While the funding allotments are very modest, OSPN is eager to explore how we could expand our use of virtual connections to offer more programs to our members over the next three months (June, July and August).  The funding will also help us to have a temporary part time paid staff person!

There are a number of ideas floating around that would support increased connection, skills building and just plain fun!  Here are a few ideas we have heard so far: fitness, yoga, mental health support, meditation, book club; storytelling, games nights; crafts; and even a virtual vintage Queer dance.  We could also offer panel discussions on important topics such as long-term care reform, end of life care and other topics that members recommend. We are testing a new model of support so we can experiment and develop a made for OSPN model that works for us!

Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to predict what restrictions will be in place later this year; however, should it be possible and safe to hold face-to-face activities, we have negotiated some space with the Good Companions Centre two Saturdays per month from September -December. This would allow for some in-person programming and perhaps blend this with some virtual programming as well.

We do recognize that using new technologies might not be everyone’s preference and that it may be a learning curve as well.  We also haven’t forgotten that some LGBTTQ2 seniors may not have access to the technology or the Internet due to their living situation, or financial barriers. You will hear from us again with information we are gathering about some not-for-profit programs that are working to remove these barriers. We really do want to connect with those individuals too that are not presently able to connect digitally.

We know that our community is filled with individuals with skills, talents and experiences to offer and we would like to hear from you with your ideas, possible contributions and general feedback about what you have just read.  Please respond at ospn.rfao@gmail.com.

Stay safe and stay connected!

OSPN Coordinating Committee – Lyle Borden, George Hartsgrove, Barry Deeprose, Michael Horne, Holly MacKay, Cathy Collett