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Bykota programs bring safe recreation to Towson area seniors

Julie Lynn, executive director of the Bykota Senior Center in Towson, shown last year. The center is running a number of virtual programs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Julie Lynn, executive director of the Bykota Senior Center in Towson, shown last year. The center is running a number of virtual programs during the coronavirus pandemic. (Cody Boteler)

This pandemic is stressful for everyone, even more so for older adults who are considered to be at higher risk. Fewer outings, fewer visitors and increased anxiety about the virus can lead to loneliness and depression.

It is important to find safe opportunities for diversions and interactions. “Visiting outside with neighbors or regularly scheduled conversations through phone or online are essential to surviving this extended social isolation. It is certainly a very trying time,” Mary-Lou Stenchly said.

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One outlet Stenchly enjoys is her membership at the Bykota Senior Center (bykota.org), which has long been a source of recreation and continuing education for active seniors in our community.

Established in 1962 in the Towson Fire Hall, Bykota moved to its current location on Central Avenue, formerly the site of Towson High School, in 1983. Its membership is the highest among Baltimore County Senior centers.

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Although Bykota’s building is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, Baltimore County Senior Center staff are working hard to provide free virtual programming on fitness, music, art, cooking, history, games, decorating, relationships, health care, writing and much more.

Some examples of current offerings include: Aerobics, Strength, Dancing and Stretching, with Maria McMacken; Exploring Color visual art class, with Caryn Martin; gentle Yoga Somatics, with Linda McGill; Sculpture with simple materials gathered at home, with Jim Paulsen; Coffee House Music with on-screen sing along/play along and performance opportunities; Journaling with Julie; Art Exploration, with David Cunningham; Beginner or intermediate Zentangle, with Becky Boynton; Watercolor techniques and painting; Chair yoga, meditation and Yoga Nidra; and Gentle Mat Yoga for relaxation, flexibility and strength.

Bykota also presents opportunities for members and friends to catch up and hear the latest news from staff with an informal “social” on Fridays.

Upcoming one-time programs at Bykota during November include: “Getting The Most Money for Your House,” with David Page and Andrea Mann, on Nov. 10; “Gadgets to Help You Age in Place,” from AARP, on Nov. 12; “Memory Loss and Dementia,” a presentation by the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, on Nov. 17; Book club discussion of “Finding Dorothy” by Elizabeth Letts, on Nov. 18; “Rumor or Fact — Hoffmanville Reservoir,” a presentation by the Baltimore County Historical Society, on Nov. 19; and a Virtual Happy Hour, on Nov. 20, featuring singer Bruce Thomas performing songs from Sinatra to Motown.

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“We are currently not charging for any programs, and there are many opportunities to take virtual classes or meet other members," said Julie Lynn, the Bykota Senior Center executive director. "While many of our members were hesitant to try Zoom at first, now I hear them giving other newbies directions and tips.

“While it has not been the same as in person, it is a way to connect and stay engaged. Some members have even loved that they can enjoy the programs from the comfort of their homes.”

To learn about programs or to get program links, email jlynn@baltimorecountymd.gov or call 410-887-3094.

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