Barb, a retired teacher from the Southern Tier of New York State, was a caregiver for her husband, who developed Alzheimer's in 2012 for 11 years until his death. She utilized many of her skills obtained from 40 years of teaching to better care for his physical, mental, and emotional needs; she was determined to keep him at home and was so grateful she accomplished that goal.
After her husband passed away, she started looking for other things she could do to keep herself busy and to help with the grieving process. She also wanted to share her experiences with other people hoping to help them through the challenges of caregiving. She found it difficult to go out and attend in-person classes, but she still craved learning and socializing. She discovered GetSetUp and hasn't looked back since.
Barb has found solace and connection through GetSetUp, an online platform that offers interactive classes for older adults. Through GetSetUp, Barb has discovered new interests, made friends, and learned valuable skills that are helping her cope with her loss.
Barb's journey with GetSetUp started with a fitness class. As someone who used to attend weekly Zumba and Tai Chi classes at the YMCA with her husband, Barb missed the social and physical benefits of exercise. Through SilverSneakers, a fitness program for seniors, she received a notice about GetSetUp and decided to give it a try.
That's where she met Ty, a Shibashi leader and Tai Chi master. She now starts her day with a peaceful and energizing Shibashi routine.
"Ty is magnificent. He is so kind and good at what he does; he has a wonderful sense of humor. I've met other people through his classes whose connections I value," Barb shares. "It's been so calming and energizing at the same time.”
As her husband's illness progressed, he wasn't as mobile as before, so Barb found herself getting less exercise as well. Now, in addition to the fitness classes on GetSetUp, Barb likes to listen to educational GetSetUp classes as she jumps on her rebounder. It’s like Get Set Up has had a domino effect on her in a very positive way; she finds she wants to be more active now and is getting out to take neighborhood walks with friends.
"The classes have helped me find calmness through deep breathing, thoughtful movements, and artistic expression. With the help of GetSetUp instructors, I am finding ways to handle challenging situations. I’d gotten so used to the routine challenges of taking care of my husband that I'd fallen out of the practice of handling other day-to-day situations.
The calming breathing she does in morning classes she also does at night now, and it has improved her sleep. During the last few years of caring for her husband, she often slept as little as 2 hours a night. Now she's sleeping 7 hours, and her doctor is impressed with this positive shift in her health.
Journaling for Mindfulness and Healing
As Barb went through the grieving process, she found it challenging to express her thoughts and emotions. That's when she discovered Kristine's Journaling for Mindfulness class on GetSetUp.
Kristine's prompts and empathetic approach made it easier for Barb to write down her feelings in a journal and find comfort in her own words.
"Kristine has such a wonderful empathetic manner and it's been so helpful to write down my thoughts about anything and everything without feeling the need to share those thoughts with anyone else. Her prompts are so on point and very creative," Barb says.
Guide Kristine learned through classes that Barb and her husband Bob had published a book, Voices from the Forest, Poetry and Artistic Interpretations. The book is based on a cooperative learning project the couple had created together in 2004 for their students in which Bob, an award-winning musician, wrote poetry about animals from the forest who taught enchanting lessons about life. The book features Barb's husband's 26 poems and artwork from her family and friends as well as questions and activities Barb and her daughter, who is also a teacher, created to encourage intergenerational bonding between parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren, as well as people with mental disabilities. Barb published the book through Amazon as a tribute to her husband with encouragement from members of the Dementia Action Alliance. She was thrilled to place a copy in his hands in 2022, just months before his death; he loved hearing his wife read it to him.
Kristine was intrigued by the book and got herself a copy. She loved the book's prompts so much that she has started using some of the poems from the book in her Mindful Journaling class. Barb says it feels wonderful to have her husband's work acknowledged and appreciated. Plus, it has inspired Barb to share the book with local schools and libraries, and she hopes to visit nursing homes with the book as well.
"I felt so good to have Kristine appreciate the book so much; it’s been wonderful for her to do that," she says. And her very caring response has lit a fire under her to share the book with more people.
A Vision Board to Work Through Grief
Barb joined Kristine’s vision board class in an effort to find a productive project, never realizing the lasting impact it would have. The class inspired her to set some priorities and develop a mission of honor, remembrance, and creativity as she works through her grief.
She has decided to transform a circular area in her backyard where their former above-ground pool used to sit into a Mandela garden in honor of her husband. The vision board she is creating is helping her plan this project. She has taken several gardening and food classes on GetSetUp with Jane, a GetSetUp Guide, and has learned so many helpful tips on how to develop her garden. She also joined Zooms on arts and poetry to inspire her creativity, plus the other learners in the classes have given her great ideas. She appreciates their interest in her project and their loving support.
One of the best things Barb loves about GetSetUp classes is receiving follow-up emails with resources like the names of the plants, notes, recommended readings, and other materials that make classes feel personal. She also commends the Guides' abilities to make the class interactive and engaging despite having many participants. While Barb attends many classes through her iphone she's also utilizing smart technology to have more impactful connections.
"I usually do the classes on my iPhone, but it's hard to see people at the same time, so I’ve learned how to put the Zooms up on the Apple TV so I can see them better," Barb says.
A Community of Learners
For Barb, GetSetUp has been more than a platform to learn new skills and hobbies. It has become a community of learners who share the same passion and interests. She finds it heartwarming to see how supportive and kind everyone is.
"I have taught classes for over 40 years; I love teaching in the classroom, walking around checking in with each student. It's so much more difficult to do it over Zoom, yet GetSetUp instructors are just amazing! They go through the chats and ask people to share their thoughts, making it more interactive and engaging," she says, "People feel connected to others and to something bigger than themselves."
This personalized approach helps people feel seen and heard, which can make a huge difference in their mental health.
GetSetUp has provided a way for Barb to cope with the loss of her husband and connect with others who share similar interests. It is more than just an online platform for older adults to take classes. It provides a sense of community and connection that many older adults may be lacking, especially after the pandemic.
Additionally, GetSetUp offers a wide range of classes that cater to different interests and skill levels. Whether someone is a beginner in a certain topic or an expert, they can find a class that suits their needs. This can be empowering for older adults, who may feel like they have limited opportunities to learn and grow.
"GetSetUp is incredibly user-friendly, which is crucial for older adults who may not be as tech-savvy. The platform is easy to navigate, and the instructors are patient and understanding when it comes to technical difficulties. This creates a low-pressure environment where people can feel comfortable and confident in their learning."
GetSetUp is helping Barb cope with the loss of her husband and find purpose in her daily life.
"I love GetSetUp it's just a phenomenal organization, and I want to keep doing more with it."
GetSetUp is a reminder that it's never too late to learn and grow, and that there is always something new to discover.