By Nicole Bruce
Join us for a walking tour of Chicago landmarks, an invigorating concert, or an Israel-inspired creative arts experience… and more!
After months of staying at home and attending meetings, presentations and events online, you’re probably a little exhausted from staring at a computer screen to connect with other humans. CJE’s Community Engagement team recognizes the need for more meaningful, engaging virtual programs that will take older adults out into the world and offer new interactive experiences. To counteract what’s been deemed “Zoom fatigue,” they’re invigorating CJE’s Cyber Club by adding unique programs into the weekly lineup that will give participants more time to “meet each other” while participating in innovative cultural experiences.
“Over the past several months, we’ve been getting valuable feedback from our Cyber Club participants. It’s going to be a tough winter, and people are looking for ways to combat Zoom fatigue and increasing feelings of loneliness. So, we are responding to their needs by providing more of what they’re looking for,” said Catherine Samatas, CJE’s Community Engagement Manager. New live virtual programs will include field trips to local landmarks, concerts, art-making projects, mindfulness groups, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talks, timely book discussions, as well as cooking, fitness, and language classes like French and Yiddish.
Virtual Field Trips to Chicago Landmarks
Starting in the fall, the Community Engagement team pivoted their focus and began taking CJE’s Cyber Club participants out into the world through live virtual field trips. Through CJE’s My Go-To Place programs with JCC Chicago and Niles Township, CJE’s Cyber Club is now hosting interactive virtual walking tours of popular and off-the-beaten path Chicago landmarks, including museums, special exhibits, historic homes, and downtown hotspots. Comfortable walking shoes are optional!
Led by museum docents and other subject experts, these Zoom field trips will explore history, culture, and art topics and then let participants ask questions during the live online discussions and tours. According to Samatas, “Every virtual field trip that we plan will have a live docent so participants can ask questions along the way. We’re only doing tours that allow for that kind of interaction, so it’s not just watching a video.”
They have already visited the Ruth Bader Ginsberg exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, strolled along the Chicago Riverwalk with the Chicago Architecture Center, and explored the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Next up… participants can expect more architecture tours, a guided tour of Broadway musical history by the decade with Porchlight Music Theatre and trips to other exciting sites like the International Museum of Surgical Science, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Edwin H. Cheney House, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Sheldon Peck Homestead, Check online for the latest upcoming tours through CJE’s Cyber Club at cje.net/virtualtours.
Israel-Focused Music and Art Programs
Older adults will be able to immerse themselves in the timeless sights and sounds of Israel through Community Engagement’s new program, Next Year In Jerusalem (often sung in Hebrew “L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalyim”), funded with a special grant from the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest in Chicago. Through music and history discussions and guided creative art sessions (beginners welcome!), the program aims to connect older adults with Israel. “Our Instant Israel program helped people travel to Israel through virtual reality before the pandemic halted our in-person programming, so we’re excited to still be able to take people to Israel virtually for musical performances and arts with a traditional Jewish focus,” said Samatas.
Join CJE’s Cyber Club for guided art and writing sessions inspired by the music and history of the land. Enjoy special musical performances by Yonina—the Israel-based duo will be streaming performances from various locations in Israel. Art with Abby Maeir and writing with Alice Moody, who will be leading projects tied to traditional Israeli arts, are also planned.
Lyric Opera Concert Series
In addition to performances by Israeli musicians, volunteers from the Lyric Opera Stage Artists and Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra are graciously performing a series of live virtual concerts for CJE’s Cyber Club participants. Lyric Opera musicians are showcasing some of their favorite songs for older adults at home through Zoom and will continue to do so until they can perform in person again.
“Cyber Club participants are really enjoying the music programs. It’s been one of our most popular genres of virtual programs. Bringing even more music offerings to Cyber Club through our new partnership with the Lyric Opera is our response to that growing demand,” said Samatas.
CJE’s Community Engagement team is also focused on offering even more high-quality learning experiences for Cyber Club participants. A partnership with One Day University®, an organization that runs live-streamed and on-demand lectures with well-known, engaging speakers, gives CJE access to hundreds of educational talks on history, business, arts, and politics.
“We hope to use these talks as launch points for conversations in our own Cyber Club programs. We’re looking into utilizing these experts—from music to theater to history genres—and finding our own volunteers and other speakers with extensive knowledge in the genres to lead discussions with our participants and give their personal take on the topic,” explains Samatas. “It’d be fun to host a talk on Frank Sinatra and the mob or Jewish composers through Hollywood based on some of the private lectures we have access to.”
Students from Loyola University Chicago’s Master of Arts in Medical Sciences program are leading a new, bimonthly STEM program called “Let’s Talk About Science and Medicine” through CJE’s Cyber Club. CJE’s extern Mikaela Johnson led the first engaging virtual talk, “The Life of Pandemics: The Worst Pandemics in History,” and future educational topics are sure to inspire the most curious Cyber Club participants.
Volunteers Dish Up Their Culinary Secrets
For those interested in learning to make easy recipes that won’t break the bank, long-time friends and CJE SeniorLife volunteers Suzanne and Cristyne invite chefs of all skill levels into their kitchens for cooking tips and techniques with Cyber Club’s new “What’s Cooking?” classes. Participants will receive weekly recipes and ingredient lists with advance registration. Discover delicious and nutritious—and refreshingly simple—recipes and cook right along with them!
How to Participate
CJE’s Cyber Club programs are free and open to all, and most are accessible through Zoom with both video and telephone dial-in options. For the latest information about live virtual programs and pre-recorded educational videos to watch at your leisure, be sure to check our website at cje.net/cyberclub. New programs and registration details are updated regularly. You’ll even receive email reminders for events you’ve signed up for, so you won’t miss your favorite programs.
Cyber Tip: Want the latest news and registration information delivered straight to your email inbox? Sign up for Cyber Club’s weekly e-newsletter! Participants can also receive alerts when new videos are added by subscribing to our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/CJESeniorLife.