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OU Health Sciences Center Offers Online Classes for Older Adults During Pandemic

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  • Written By: OU Medicine

OKLAHOMA CITY -- To keep older adults connected to the meaningful interactions that are so important for their well-being, the OU Health Sciences Center is using technology to reach out to seniors across Oklahoma during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research has linked social isolation to a higher risk of both physical disease and mental health disorders. However, the very action that can protect people from the COVID-19 virus – socially distancing from other people – brings the potential to send older adults spiraling into loneliness.

The OU Health Sciences Center has moved many of its classes for older adults online through Facebook Live and Zoom. Those programs might usually be held in community centers and libraries across Oklahoma, but seniors can now safely access them from their homes.

“Older adults are at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 and need to continue social distancing so they can remain safe. But that also means they are disconnected from their usual social networks at this time,” said Lee Jennings, M.D., a geriatrician at OU Medicine and director of the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative (OHAI). “We knew we needed to think creatively about how we can continue our programming, but also gear it toward helping older adults and their caregivers during this time.”

The OU Health Sciences Center has received several federal grants and gifts in recent years to provide a variety of educational opportunities to older adults. OHAI, with 11 community educators working in five centers -- in Enid, Tulsa, Lawton, Durant and Oklahoma City, each serving its surrounding counties -- has been providing community-based health promotion education for older adults since 2012. A more recent initiative, the Oklahoma Dementia Care Network, helps people with dementia and their caregivers, and the Oklahoma Falls Prevention Program leads older adults in exercises that reduce the risk of falls.

Among the many classes are:

  • Diabetes self-management
  • Chronic disease management
  • Tai Chi for Better Balance
  • Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind
  • How to Talk to Your Doctor
  • Powerful Tools for Caregivers
  • Staying Active and Independent for Life

OHAI is live-streaming five classes each day on its Facebook page. The Oklahoma Dementia Care Network is using the videoconferencing platform Zoom for its educational classes.

“Several of our current participants have commented that the Facebook classes are helping them to stay connected and active, although they miss their regular classes,” said Paula Cockrell, education director for OHAI’s Central Oklahoma Center of Healthy Aging. “We are hopeful the Facebook Live and interactive Zoom classes will help to address the isolation and loneliness that older Oklahomans are feeling during this time.”

For more information about all online classes, visit



One of nation’s few academic health centers with seven professional colleges — Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Graduate Studies — the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center serves approximately 4,000 students in more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. For more information, visit


OU Medicine — along with its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center — is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. With 11,000 employees and more than 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, OU Medicine is home to Oklahoma’s largest physician network with a complete range of specialty care. OU Medicine serves Oklahoma and the region with the state’s only freestanding children’s hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Stephenson Cancer Center and Oklahoma’s flagship hospital, which serves as the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. OU Medicine is the No. 1 ranked hospital system in Oklahoma, and its oncology program at Stephenson Cancer Center and OU Medical Center ranked in the Top 50 in the nation, in the 2019-2020 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. OU Medicine was also ranked by U.S. News & World Report as high performing in four specialties: Ophthalmology in partnership with Dean McGee Eye Institute, Colon Surgery, COPD and Congestive Heart Failure. OU Medicine’s mission is to lead healthcare in patient care, education and research. To learn more, visit