More Ways to Adapt Java Groups During COVID-19

Seton Villa Home Adapting Java During COVID

The COVID-19 virus is having widespread and devastating effects for seniors, especially those living in congregate care. Apart from direct physical health concerns, living in isolation with fear of the virus causes significant anxiety.

The loss of friends and loved ones further impacts mental, emotional, and physical health. Defusing anxiety is not easy, but research shows connecting with others can help.

The Java programs are designed to engage residents with each other, usually in group get-togethers. Many organizations that had Java groups running before the virus struck, are now finding unique ways to continue the groups, while respecting physical distancing requirements.

Social engagement is a critical need at this time and although virtual connections with family can provide relief for some, many residents do not have family connections and technology can be a barrier. Therefore, finding safe methods to promote social engagement is important.

The following examples are techniques being used by some of our clients when groups are possible. Be sure to check all safety, regulatory, and internal policies that might apply to your situation. Below we have added some new creative tips offered by facilitators to our list.

1. Java Music Club Booklets—make a set of booklets that include the Guidelines, Getting Centered and Closing Affirmation, plus lyrics of the opening and closing songs that group members can keep to use each week. Keep extra on hand.

2. Windchimes—2 suggestions: (i) The facilitator only uses the windchimes for the getting centered practice; (ii) One resident becomes the designated windchimes player and brings the windchimes each week.

3. Song Choices—instead of passing the list of songs around offer 2 choices.

4. Singing—when singing is not permitted suggest the following: (a) humming instead of singing; (b) choosing two words that happen often and miming them throughout the song (e.g., miming the word “love” by patting your heart); (c) tapping your toes for one verse, clapping for the second; or (e) dancing  in your chair.

5. Slow Songs, Upbeat Songs—for slow songs, inviting group members to consider closing their eyes and enjoy the song in a different way. After the song ends talking about that felt. For upbeat songs using rhythm instruments, clapping along or dancing.

6. Hugs—miming virtual hugs from a distance instead of real hugs.

7. Handshakes—substituting hugs with a wave or an elbow bump.

8. Themes—inviting group members to choose a theme for the following week so you can make copies of photos and quotes.

9. Photographs—instead of passing the photo around here are 3 alternatives: (a) holding the photo up and describing it using creative hand gestures, etc. (b) making copies of the photo for each group member to keep (c) if you have a projector available, showing the photo on a wall.

10. Quotes—making a copy ahead of time for all group members.

11. Thank you /Empathy Rituals—each time someone finishes sharing, invite participants to demonstrate their empathy, e.g., patting their heart, clapping silently and/or blowing a kiss.

12. This Too Shall Pass. Be  Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe—remind everyone often.

4 More Ways to Adapt Java

1. Hallway Java

When physical distancing is necessary, invite residents to join you for a Java program in the hallways—looking out from their door frame. This takes some creativity but may have the added benefit of encouraging residents who do not typically attend Java to try it out.

The music in the hallway, for example, or the laughter and calling out may draw them in to participate.

HELPFUL TIPS: Bring the Java materials with you on a cart but do not pass the materials around. Hold them up and describe as needed instead. For example, when using the photos in the Java Music Club program, hold up the photo, describe what is in it and ask their thoughts.

During an outbreak, songbooks cannot be shared. However, many residents know the first verse and chorus of familiar songs. One option is to encourage everyone to carry on by leading them to sing “la, la, la…” for the other verses. Another option is photocopying the song lyrics.

2. Java Groups and Physical Distancing

Once the restrictions on holding groups have been lifted, it is possible to hold a Java group while maintaining physical distancing.

In the photo above, Seton Villa demonstrates how their home set up the Java Music Club group while meeting safety guidelines.

Note the red x’s on the floor to show the 6 foot distancing required.

Each group member has the theme and songs printed out on individual sheets.

The handchimes are used and cleaned thoroughly after the group is over.

3. Doorway Java

Another approach to reducing social isolation is called Doorway Java.

Keeping a safe physical distance, residents are encouraged to reach out and visit those that may be lonely—while staying in the doorway. Another option is to invite those they visit to go for a walk and find a quiet lounge space to visit.

There are many things that could be done during these visits, but here are two simple ideas to use as a guide:

(i) Bring a choice of two Java themes along and conduct a ‘Mini’ Java Music Club. Invite them to pick the theme and then walk through it.

(ii) At the end of the session, invite them to consider someone they could support. It could be a neighbour down the hallway or elsewhere. Write them a card together, a short letter, or copy out a poem or a positive saying and then deliver it.

4. The ‘Java Get Together’ ( Java Simplified)

It is possible for anyone to hold simple Java peer support group on the fly. Invite a small group (4-6 residents) to gather for a “Java Get Together”, ensuring safe physical distancing. This approach consists of 5 simple steps:

(i) Introductions: Ask everyone to introduce themselves.

(ii) Centering: Take 2 slow deep breaths together to get centered.

(iii) Pick a topic: Invite someone to pick a topic to discuss.

Suggestion: Write up some topics ahead of time and give them two to choose from. Topics that focus on social and emotional needs allow residents an opportunity to share their feelings.  Here are some examples:

Being loved; Feeling secure and safe; Feeling needed; Worry; Boredom;
Being included; Enjoying life; Meeting spiritual needs; Feeling respected;
Experiencing a sense of belonging;  Loneliness;  Sadness; New friendships.; Feeling at home;  Feeling courageous;  Feeling grateful;.

(iv) Sharing: Offer each person a chance to do the following:
a. Ask how they are doing (or “How’s life?”)
b. Invite them to share about the topic. (e.g. “Do you feel included?)

(v) Ending: Thank everyone and inviting them to repeat the following after you: “May we all be happy and at peace.”—”May we all be happy and at peace.”

Do you have some ideas on how to adapt the Java programs? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at

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