Seniors connecting in quarantine
Staying socially connected despite distancing
The pandemic has been a time to make adjustments, adapt to change, and learn new things. Many retirement homes and seniors have taken this as an opportunity to learn or improve virtual communication and grow in other new ways. Over the past year, we’ve been delighted by stories of how communities and seniors have adapted, made the best of things, and celebrated the way life goes on.
Below, we offer a collection of noteworthy (sometimes newsworthy) innovations in technology and care that helped seniors stay connected with the outside world and made this past year just a little bit brighter.
Schlegel Villages celebrates seniors' wisdom
The Wisdom of the Elder, a signature program within Schlegel Villages was started several years ago. Residents of Schlegel communities from across Ontario are honoured with presentation on Stories from the Green Bench. In these, they share advice they’ve acquired from life or share interesting stories from their history.
In October, the series expanded to a podcast reaching a broader world, with hosts Erin Davis, one-time radio host with 98.1 CHFI, and Lloyd Hetherington, of The Village of Riverside Glen in Guelph. Davis says, “Physically or virtually, the bench invites us all to sit alongside a senior, share a conversation or give and offer advice. [It] helps restore them to a place of reverence.”
Some stories featured in the podcast include Louise Joliffe discussing the struggle to find work in the 1950’s or Patricia Bayley reading her poem about life in quarantine, called “Stay the Course.” The series, set to continue to the end of 2021, implicitly values the experience of elders featured, and they feel renewed through the joy of sharing their stories with a worldwide audience.
George Shepherd’s video is a good example of Stories from the Green Bench.
Subscribe to the podcast here: ElderWisdom.ca/podcast
PARC Retirement Living Innovates Family Visiting
The early pandemic was an extremely difficult time for families of seniors, as they not only worried about their loved ones in isolation in retirement homes, but they also could not see them except through technologies like FaceTime and Zoom, which not all seniors were amenable to using. PARC Family Meetup Centres, launched in May, were a first in Canada, a safe way for residents to meet face-to-face with their loved ones. "There is no replacement for a face-to-face conversation with your loved one," acknowledged Westerleigh PARC's GM in a Facebook post.
This timely, responsive innovation was featured in local news outlets like Burnaby Now and Powell River Peak, as well as CTV News. The video below shows both family members' and seniors' delight in safe face-to-face meetings. One family member loves the way it allowed them to "just focus on visiting [instead of whether] the technology is [working or not]."
Other companies followed suit with similar structures, including Delmanor and St. Elizabeth Village.
Local schools connect with Bria Communities in Greater Vancouver
Social isolation affected everyone in different ways, but when we were at our best, we used it as an invitation to try new things, and to reach out to new friends since it was not always possible to see family. At The Waterford in Tsawwassen, residents were surprised to receive the gift of thoughtfully-created friendship bracelets from students at nearby Beach Grove Elementary School. This grew out of a relationship started when students visited the community, before the pandemic. They’ve since begun to exchange letters with the students, which the students have found valuable, as they learn to write their own stories. Students were especially interested by seniors’ descriptions of “their childhoods and their memories growing up during World War II,” said teacher Joanne Calder. At The Wexford nearby, a similar story had earlier unfolded with a community pen-pal project started by the owner of a local pet store, during the early days of the pandemic.
Read the heartwarming full story of how Beach Grove school students bonded with The Waterford's seniors.
Greenwood Retirement Communities keeps seniors safe and social
Greenwood Retirement Communities had protocols in place that kept many locations COVID-free during the pandemic, earning extensive praise from families. You can see this praise in reviews for Harmony Hill Retirement Community (as just one example). The company has also kept seniors pleased as possible during the pandemic, with virtual offerings like a concert from the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in January.
At Retirement Suites by the Lake, also part of Greenwood, seniors stayed positive through the pandemic, thanks in part to their dogs, who helped them stay socially and physically active. Seniors here embrace the freedom to keep exploring life with the confidence gained by their trust in being safe, thanks to great care from staff there.
A daughter's love makes local news, at Promenade
In April of last year, Ottawa's Promenade Seniors' Suites & Retirement Residence made local headlines with a story of Martine Menard exercising with her father. She planned on celebrating her father's 84th birthday with more exercise! Watch the heartwarming video below, showcasing her daily devotion to her father and her trust in the caring staff at Promenade.
Optima offers virtual yoga sessions to seniors
Optima Living, with locations across western Canada, has done an excellent of keeping seniors safe from the virus while also nurturing their spirit. Case in point: they're offering online yoga sessions through their recently purchased Wild Rose location. The program, featuring Certified Yoga Instructor Erin, is viewed by seniors throughout western provinces who get break their isolation.
Staying social across the distance, at Verve
In recent months, Verve Senior Living has worked hard to make days great for those in their care. Examples include live online events, like a "Sing and Dance" event in January at Trinity Lodge in Calgary, and virtual bingo at Credit River Retirement Residence in Mississauga.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, locations like Lake Bonavista Village Retirement Residence in Calgary, have helped seniors stay connected to family, even if that was only online. Once summer broke, seniors safely socialized at a distance on patios and elsewhere outdoors.
We just love this image from Granville Gardens of these ladies enjoying a chat outside, during early summer, 2020.
Delmanor has stepped up its adaptation of helpful technoologies throughout the pandemic. The most recent example of this is daily virtual fitness classes like those at Delmanor Northtown. Classes include Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, LivingWell Fitness, Strength & Balance Training and Falls Prevention Classes. Delmanor was one of the first senior care companies to offer special training in the use of new technology early in the pandemic. Even in that early going, staff saw this as an opportunity to expand residents’ use of technology to help them “stay connected during this challenging time and beyond!”
Delmanor Communities, found across the GTA, have used their Facebook page to share a variety of fun, light posts throughout the past year, showing residents and staff keeping things as positive as possible. From their celebration of a "hoppity easter" to one resident's personal connection to COVID-19 research, residents have been "so far, so good" throughout, at locations like Prince Edward and Northtown.
Residents at Delmanor Prince Edward love their rooftop terrace overlooking the Humber River and a view of the Toronto skyline. Fresh air ... beautiful scenery ... life is still inspiring here!
Esprit Lifestyles keeps residents connected
Esprit Lifestyles adopted easily to quarantine measures. Similar to other communities, they offered tutoring and training to seniors in their care, to keep them connected.
Metta Lifestyles stays social
Metta Lifestyles' Governors’ Walk is a beautiful location not far from the confluence of the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers. In February it partnered with a local high school to start a “Seniors Stay Social” virtual program, similar to other communities noted above. The program facilitates “meaningful new friendships” between secondary students and seniors in the community. Learn more about it below.
Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones
Communities made sure to keep celebrating milestones in people's lives. Throughout the year, special celebrations were held at retirement homes across the country.
Muriel McKenzie has thrived for seven years at Caroline Place in Hamilton. For International Women's Day earlier this month, they posted a tribute to Muriel, who's also soon to be a centenarian. Muriel was also featured in a recently updated story in the Spectator about the community's training of seniors in the use of iPads. Celebrate Muriel!
In July of 2020, Edna from Lynde Creek Manor by Esprit Lifestyle Communities celebrated her 102nd birthday!! She looks great!! Happy birthday Miss Edna!!
At V!VA Barrhaven, in early June, Ken and Carol celebrated 60 years together.
At Thornebridge Gardens in New Westminster, Enid used Zoom to celebrate her 100th birthday(!) in later April, with family. Staff at the community, meanwhile, all wished her a happy birthday from outside. View the LinkedIn post.
At V!VA Mississauga, in April, senior resident Jack's family came out to celebrate his birthday and brighten his day, while still keeping their social distance. "You can't change the strength of love we have for one another."
Check out the good news Facebook post.
Check out fellow resident Mary's message of hope and gratitude.
At Westerleigh PARC in West Vancouver, Bill celebrated his 92nd birthday. Sure to honour social distancing measures, his daughter, Barbara, dropped in and sang happy birthday over the phone and in-person through the bistro window. "How sweet!"
Check out the original post on LinkedIn.