SBCC’s Vitality Program Keeps Elderly Engaged

15 Instructors Run Courses at 18 Different Santa Barbara Facilities

Luis Sanchez teaches tai chi to a class at Garden Court as part of SBCC’s Vitality Program. “What matters is to get them to flow in motion, and that activates all the joints in the body,” he explained.
Paul Wellman

Our elderly neighbors are staying engaged, both mentally and socially, thanks to Santa Barbara City College’s popular Vitality Program, which sends 15 instructors to 18 different facilities across town to deliver lessons in art, music, body and mind, traveling, and current events.

“What makes Vitality so special is that we send teachers who are trained in working with older adults straight to them,” said Jeanette Chian, the associate director of the School of Extended Learning. “So many of them are unable to get to our campuses, so they wouldn’t have had a chance to participate in the classes if this program didn’t exist.”

Under the umbrella of SBCC’s Extended Learning, the Vitality Program was launched in 2017. Currently, there are more than 60 tuition-free courses being offered to adults living in independent, assisted, and memory-care facilities on the South Coast. Anyone 14 years old and older may attend, so the children and grandchildren of residents can take the class with their loved one.

Luis Sanchez, working with the Vitality Program sponsored by SBCC, has been a certified practitioner of T’ai Chi for 24 years and seen here teaching a class at Garden Court. He impresses the importance of “getting people to move with quality. I don’t care if they are doing the movement correctly. That doesn’t mater to me. What matters is to get them to flow in motion and that activates all the joints i the body. The bones bear weight. The muscles more the bones. The brain does the organizing.”
Paul Wellman

“Some of the activity directors at the facilities have told us that after the residents attend a class, they are noticeably more alert and sociable for the following 24 hours,” Chian said. “Even if the resident in memory care can’t recognize their own family member, they are visibly happier and more engaged with their surroundings during the classes.”

Chian said classroom time is focused on learning, fostering connections among students, and building community.

“If you have a loved one living at an independent, assisted, or memory-care facility around town, this program is a fantastic way for adult children and teenage grandchildren to connect with their loved one, all while learning and having fun in the process,” she added. “SBCC is here to reduce barriers to education for all. We strive to provide learning opportunities for community members 0 [years old] to 100-plus.”

The program is funded via the State of California’s adult education allocations.



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