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AARP Colorado's Virtual Classes Are Here to Stay

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Jan Chavez had been enjoying AARP Colorado NeighborWalks, an activity in which participants stroll through historic areas of Denver with local guides. 

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Chavez curtailed her group activities. She turned instead to AARP virtual events for entertainment. 

“It was worth stepping out of my comfort zone,” said Chavez, 73, of Denver. When someone had technical questions, like how to use closed captioning or enlarge the image, other attendees helped via chat messages.  

It’s that kind of assistance and sense of community that keeps Chavez coming back. She said she would love to see an introductory  computer or social media course offered. “I know You‑Tube, but I’d rather take a class through a group I’m familiar with, like AARP.”

Last year, more than 20,000 people registered for AARP Colorado’s virtual events. 

The state AARP office was one of the association’s first to provide online classes, said Jeremiah Mora, its community outreach director. That was a few years ago; now, AARP Colorado develops two to four virtual programs each week. 

The events are in addition to AARP webinars and courses offered nationwide, such as Driver Safety and Fraud Watch Network programs.

The webinars offer a mix of topics important to older folks, such as ways to prevent dementia, and fun events, including a series on exploring wines.  

From gardens to yoga

Some of the most-attended virtual events include the NeighborWalks tours, which draw between 300 and 700 registrants per webinar, said Mora, who produces most of the activities, often in conjunction with community partners. 

For instance, he worked with Colorado State University Extension and Denver Botanic Gardens on gardening and horticulture programs. 

“We did herbal tea pairings and one on how to take care
of houseplants. Those have been wildly popular,” Mora said. 

Virtual classes include yoga, salsa dancing and other exercise activities, as well as topics important to older adults, such as finances, Social Security benefits, affordable housing and nutrition. AARP also offers Fraud Watch webinars on avoiding scams.

The events are free with the exception of some exercise classes, which have a small fee, and most are archived and can be viewed up to a year after they were originally offered.

“Because so many of us are staying at home, we know it is difficult to get needed human contact and interaction,” said Angela Cortez, communications director for AARP Colorado. “AARP is proud to provide a wide range of activities to continue learning and interacting.” 

Webinars and livestreaming courses will be offered even after the coronavirus has become less of a threat.

“Events will be a hybrid of virtual and in person,” Mora said. 

To view a schedule of  AARP Colorado courses, visit aarp.org/co and click on Upcoming Events. For a list of available archived programs, go to aarp.org/COwebinars.

AARP national webinars and events can be found at its Virtual Community Center: aarp.org/virtual-community-center.

Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.

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