NEW YORK (WABC) -- This is a story about an idea born just before the pandemic began that got new momentum when so many older people found themselves in their homes in lockdown.
The Vitality Society is the brainchild of Meredith Oppenheim, an executive from the Upper West Side, who spent two decades in the senior housing industry. She came up with the idea as a way to help her mother ensure her own mother remained her best.
Oppenheim says her experience as an intern at Eyewitness News helped prepare her for all this.
She interned at WABC-TV in the 1990s before going to work in the media industry. But, after graduating from Harvard Business School, she devoted her life to helping older people.
The word 'vitality' means one is strong and active, filled with what used to be called get-up-and-go, and judging by the exuberant online presence of these members, The Vitality Society lives up to its name for those 60 and older.
"We want to help tap into their curiosity," Oppenheim said. "Their creativity in living life and enjoying life as much as possible."
She grew up close to her grandparents and started a program for older people when still in high school. It was while in college at Cornell University that Meredith interned for Eyewitness News.
"We were working on 'Tiempo' and so there were Spanish-speaking communities that were under-served and under-represented, and ABC was creating programming to celebrate that community," she said.
She sees a straight line between her duties here and her approach at Vitality Society.
"We've created programming and a community to celebrate older people at a time when maybe they're feeling overloaded or neglected," Oppenheim said.
Her mother, Ronnie Oppenheim, was her inspiration because, "I saw with my mother she really needed to remain connected to remain well."
Her mom, a former 1st grade teacher, leads a class online called "At The Heart of Art."
"Technology is not my greatest strength," she admits. "But they showed me what to do and it was so simple. People my age, this is not a natural thing for us. It's just not. It's so foreign, and they do everything to hold your hand and made it work."
Some of the people who've joined Vitality Society gathered just before the omicron surge at a party to meet Meredith and Ronnie and express their appreciation to them.
Joining The Society costs $30 per month for hours of live on Zoom fitness, wellness and enrichment, streamed programming every day, and true to its mission, if someone can't afford the cost, there is financial aid available. Click here for more information.
The recent party offered a final proof of concept that these members are thriving.
"I felt heard and acknowledged and it was fun," said one subscriber. "I loved that."
"I can go on and enjoy the rest of years on earth," another said.
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