Seniors enjoy exercise and music from the comfort and safety of their cars.

Seniors enjoy exercise and music from the comfort and safety of their cars. (Courtesy photo)

For some 40 years, Friendship Center has been a place in the community for compassionate care for aging adults. Friendship Center’s two sites, one in Montecito and the other in Goleta, have day programs for adults and seniors to enjoy while offering respite for caregivers.

Since closing its physical doors on March 16 due to COVID-19 precautions, Friendship Center has sought alternative ways to connect with its senior friends.

One such activity was Friendship Center’s first Drive-In Activity Hour, held June 17. Senior members and their caregivers participated from the safety of their cars in the Montecito Friendship Center’s parking lot, with each car backed into a designated space at least six feet from another vehicle.

The majority of the center’s senior friends live with a dementia diagnosis, and many have co-occurring diagnoses as well, making them a particularly vulnerable population to illness exposure. As a result, most of the seniors have not left their homes since the COVID-19 threat came to Santa Barbara in mid-March.

For many of the seniors, the drive-in event was the first time leaving their homes and seeing familiar faces and spaces in three months.

Staff led the guests, who remained in their cars, through a seated exercise/dance. Staff then passed the baton to Trudy and Oscar, a musical duo that has been performing at Friendship Center for decades. The singing of nearly 40 people likely could have been heard from down the block. After the half-hour musical performance, the event concluded with some shout-out brain games.

While the drive-in was an unconventional way of connecting with the center’s friends, the impact it had on the families and staff, who develop a familial connection while caring for the seniors, was invaluable.