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As the coronavirus forces people to keep their distance, AARP Georgia is working to connect them through two online series. One taps into the inner artist in everyone, and the other focuses on health.

The events are free and available to all AARP members.

“Social isolation is a huge problem that can lead to depression,” said Alice Bennett, associate state director for AARP Georgia. “We want to do things that get people connected.”

The Let’s Get Livable Passport to the Arts Series! will take place Thursday, Nov. 19, and Friday, Nov. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 10, and Friday, Dec. 11. AARP members will be emailed an invitation with a registration link, or they can register through the events’ web pages.

The Jessye Norman School of the Arts and the CSRA Area Agency on Aging in Augusta will run the online art and wellness classes. The art activities are designed to be done using basic household items or inexpensive materials.

The November program, just before Thanksgiving, has the theme “Reflection and Gratitude.”

The first part of the two-day event is a mindfulness workshop, to give people the opportunity to think about the things in their lives that have inspired them and made them thankful.

The next day, participants will use those reflections to create a shadow box from a shoebox or other container that they will fill with meaningful objects. “It could be something as simple as leaves on a tree,” Bennett said.

Register at aarp.cvent.com/LGLPTAGiveThanks.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, so the Dec. 10 program will examine the history of AIDS and HIV, as well as advocacy efforts.

“We want to do outreach to our members and their caregivers that AIDS is not a young person’s disease or a disease of death,” Bennett said. “We want them to know that there are resources out there.”

On the event’s second day, participants will paint a winter scene. If they don’t have a canvas and paints, they can buy an inexpensive kit from a local art store. Register at aarp.cvent.com/LGLPTAPaintParties.

Focus on health disparities

AARP Georgia’s Living With series will focus on diabetes on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 11 a.m. to noon (aarp.cvent.com/LivingWithSeriesDiabetes). The program picks up on Tuesday, Dec. 1, from 11 a.m. to noon, with the topic of transitioning from military to civilian life (aarp.cvent.com/LivingWithSeriesVeteranTransition).

The series provides education on how inequities in health care affect people of color. Using Zoom videoconferencing, it entails panel discussions that playwright Garrett Davis moderates, showing clips from his plays.

“Health disparities are important because it’s known that the pandemic has disproportionately hit them the hardest,” said Jil Hinds, AARP Georgia associate state director.

Some underlying health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Dec. 1 program will look beyond the pandemic, touching on physical and mental wounds and financial and job challenges for those returning to civilian life.

Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.

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