Across the U.S., residents rely on their city’s recreation programs to provide both indoor and outdoor recreational activities for children on up to seniors. With Covid-19, all cities have had to adjust their programs to ensure the safety of their residents. This has been challenging because now, more than ever, people need an outlet for social and emotional engagement and recreation classes and programs have always been there for our communities.

We asked City of Rancho Palos Verdes Recreation Supervisor Andrew Berg to share about himself and the city’s programs, specifically those for seniors before the pandemic and now

BlueSea: How did you get started as a recreation leader? I see that you’ve dedicated your career to providing great programs for every age group.

Andrew Berg: Well, I think like a lot of people in this profession, I really got my start in recreation by participating in recreation programs as a kid. I grew up in the parks. When I first needed a job, I found one as a recreation leader with my local recreation department. At first, I saw it as easy and fun and close to home. But I found out pretty quickly that I had a passion for serving the community, and for providing those same programs that were socially and physically beneficial to me as a child. I was also kind of good at it. So now many years later, here I am in a different community than where I started, but continuing with the same work.

BlueSea: Oh, great. I’m just curious, which sports were you involved with as a child and do you still participate today?

Andrew Berg: Well, I was kind of involved in everything as a child, I mean soccer, basketball, you know, all of those youth sports that it seems like all my friends signed up for. I also participated in general recreation programs, the summer camps, everything from rock climbing to woodworking and art. Kind of everything they offered I was in at one point or another. And I still I still do a lot of those things.

BlueSea: Now, can you talk about the recreation programs specific to your senior community? What was it like before the pandemic, and how is it today?

Andrew Berg: Sure. One of our biggest community centers here in Rancho Palos Verdes called Hess Park was a really active gathering place for older adults before the pandemic. And we had a really full calendar of activities including fitness, card games, Mah Jongg, a popular lecture series, and even meditation groups. It was often just a place to meet and socialize. I think that was one of the most significant things we had going. The center was somewhere older adults in the community knew they could come, not just for activities, but for a sense of community.

BlueSea: Yes, just before the pandemic, BlueSea was getting ready to coordinate its Painting with Mom art classes for the seniors a Hess Park. So now we’re doing them virtually. And I know that a lot of your seniors have signed up for Blue Sea’s virtual painting classes, and we welcome them. So that’s great that you have Hess Park as your center of activities for seniors. Now, can you talk about the recreation programs? Since things have changed a little bit since the beginning of the pandemic, how do you coordinate your activities? How are they different right now?

Andrew Berg: Sure. At first, everything just went away completely. I mean, our doors were closed, and our lights were off. And it went from a really vibrant feeling community to a total ghost town. We had to make the health and safety of our entire community, but specifically the older adults that might be at a higher risk, a high priority. That was the most important thing to us, as a city and, and so we understood the importance of shutting down and postponing our programs until we are confident we can bring them all back safely. It’s a lot of work that requires a lot of patience. But we’ve been able to slowly reintroduce some things. We’re doing some classes virtually like the art classes that you offer, and we’ve held some of our own art classes and different workshops online.

We were able to hold some in-person and outdoor mostly fitness-related activities. And again, we’re able to just provide some outdoor space. Just being able to open our picnic areas, park spaces for more passive recreation to allow people to spend time together has been big for us. And then of course, we’ve been able to support organizations like yours that are offering activities in line with our own mission.

It’s been really great to have our parks feeling like they’ve come back to life a little bit to give the older adults and others in our community access to the spaces and programs that provide social and emotional engagement that we all need. But I think really importantly, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without following the state and local guidance for reopening safely.

Again, it took a lot of patience and waiting for updates. But each time a new update came out, we were able to see what the state and the local health departments advised and adjust our programs accordingly, and reintroduce more and more things as quickly as we could, but still focusing on the health and safety of our community.

BlueSea: You did mention that you have worked with a lot of community groups, and I know that you’re affiliated with several, specifically those who focus on senior activities and networking. Can you share a little bit about those community groups?

Andrew Berg: Yes, as a smaller department, we don’t always have the resources, whether it’s staff, the budget or the space, to provide everything we want to everything the community wants and needs, we rely heavily on those partnerships with other community organizations to share missions and values.

One of our biggest partners is Peninsula Seniors, an organization that offers a really wide variety of programs, events and activities for older adults on the peninsula. We’re fortunate to have a long-standing really strong, mutually beneficial relationship with them. And many of our regular activities for seniors at Hess Park were organized by Peninsula Seniors before the pandemic. We assisted with the logistics and providing the space and support for them.

Then we have quite a few smaller groups and individuals that we contract with to lead classes for us. And those are all the meditation, the bridge and other games, fitness, dance, things like that, for older adults. And then we have partnerships with other groups like yours that bring unique activities to the older adult community. You know, art and art therapy are something that we hadn’t been able to offer before, but it’s proven to be popular and extremely beneficial.

BlueSea: That’s great. And it is nice that you can get the people outdoors to do activities. And I have to say that I belong to a book club, and we’ve met at the parks locally, and we just bring our own chairs, and we space ourselves out 10-feet apart. It’s kind of a good way for people to get together where they can stretch and do different activities outdoors by spacing themselves apart.

Sometimes, it’s just good to see a face instead of being on a Zoom call, or it’s just a little bit different, even though we’re used to it, and we see each otherand it is fun. So what are some things that inspire you as far as being a leader of recreation and activities? And how, how important do you think it is to have activities as a part of our lives?

Andrew Berg: It’s absolutely essential, in my view. Like I said, I got my start in this profession by participating in it and being the person that it was offered to. So I saw firsthand how beneficial it was, not just physically like participating in those sports, but socially, emotionally, cognitively. It’s an opportunity for lifelong learning. That’s why I think programs for the older adult community are so popular, because even the seniors in the community are still seeking those opportunities for learning and for new experiences and for engaging with new people and old friends. So yes, the benefits, I think, are huge. And I think an essential part of creating a community is offering these recreation programs. A lot of times when you think of recreation, you think of kids, but it really doesn’t stop ever. We encourage and serve all ages.

BlueSea: So what is your most popular class or activity among your seniors?

Andrew Berg: I think probably our lecture series. We offered a couple of lecture series prior to the pandemic that were extremely popular. In our biggest meeting room, we can accommodate a little over 100 people. And we were almost always overflowing. People were even watching from the hallways. Then the groups that would get together, whether it was a class or just a group meeting up to do things like play bridge or other card games, something that was more about being a part of that group and interacting with each other and seeing a face, you know, meeting person to person than it was about learning the game. Those were those were always popular, whether it was a small room of, you know, just six to 10 people or again, our biggest meeting room with 80 to 100. People playing and just getting together and interacting with each other is always popular.

BlueSea: Well, that’s great. Have you done any lectures? virtually?

Andrew Berg: We haven’t ourselves. I know that when the pandemic hit Peninsula Seniors transitioned a lot of their activities to virtual. And were able to do so with pretty immediate success. So I believe they’ve continued to hold a limited lecture series, without as much support from us.

BlueSea: What quote or words of wisdom inspire you and what you do?

Andrew Berg: This magnet has been on my desk for probably 10 years, and it’s always within my peripheral view. It’s a quote that’s attributed to Teddy Roosevelt that says, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And sometimes I need the reminder to not be discouraged by adversity or unexpected circumstances, and not to dwell on things that are out of my control.

I’m driven by my own goals and my department’s goals, and find creative ways to achieve them. It’s easy to get hung up on what you can’t do and forget about all the things that you can do. So it’s kind of my daily reminder.

BlueSea: Very optimistic and helpful for all of us. Anything else you’d like to add about your programs and things that might be coming up in the near future?

Andrew Berg: We’re constantly adding new stuff. We really kind of kicked back into gear this fall, especially with outdoor programs. We’re blessed with mostly year-round decent weather, and so we can hold things outside year-round. And so that’s exciting for us. We look forward to offering things like yoga classes again and dance and fitness classes, and things for kids. So we’re constantly adding new programs and constantly updating our offerings for activities.

We encourage people to keep an eye on our website and newsletters because we’re really trying to bring as much as we can back to the community after having to kind of hold back for so long. Again, it’s always with safety in mind. I imagine virtual programs will continue indefinitely, which is great. I think that works really well for some people, but we’re really looking forward to building up our in-person activities again and offering people those opportunities to engage with each other again.

So keep an eye out. We’re always offering more as we continue into fall, and then into the new year will offer more and more programs for all ages, including the older adults and seniors.

BlueSea: Okay, and if you do any more virtual lectures, I do have some guests that I’ve interviewed who might be interesting, like a neurologist who talks about music therapy for brain health and several people including Dr. O’Brien who can talk about optimism. So we can talk about that later. But we’d love to continue work with you.

Andrew Berg: Great, we’re always open and eager.

BlueSea: Great! Well, thank you so much for taking the time today. It’s wonderful to meet you in person, at least virtually right? I hope to meet you in person one day soon. We appreciate all that you do.

Andrew Berg: Thank you. Likewise, we appreciate BlueSea Care and we’re happy to happy to be partners.

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