P.E.I. seniors find ways to mark St. Patrick's Day amid COVID-19

·3 min read
COVID-19 health protocols remained in place for the St. Patrick's Day event.  (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)
COVID-19 health protocols remained in place for the St. Patrick's Day event. (John Robertson/CBC - image credit)

The pandemic may have halted many St. Patrick's Day events last year, but on Wednesday at a church in Cardigan, seniors were celebrating.

Wearing masks while spread out at tables draped with green or white tableclothes, more than 30 people from Three Rivers 50+ Group gathered to mark the occasion.

"We were all set to go on March 17 last year with a big event and COVID struck so it didn't happen," said group leader Grace Blackette, adding members in the group range in age from their mid-60s to early 90s.

"We're trying to reinvent it for this year."

'You see a smile'

Live music was played and from the comfort of their chairs seniors nodded along as plates filled with individually wrapped baking waited patiently to be gobbled up.

"It's very meaningful if you see a smile on a face," said Blackette.

"Our main goals for the organization is education, public relations, travel, food and fun and those are the things we seem to do best."

'It's very, very meaningful to me,' says Grace Blackette. 'I appreciate each and every one of them.'
'It's very, very meaningful to me,' says Grace Blackette. 'I appreciate each and every one of them.'(John Robertson/CBC)

According to Blackette, this event stands as just the third time the group has been able to meet since the pandemic was declared last March.

"Three or four of the older seniors have said, 'This is the only place I go. You people are the only people I've seen other than the white coats, the nurses, the doctors,'" said Blackette.

"It's very important to me as the leader that we're able to do this to make sure that the event is done properly."

'A unique bunch'

Seniors' groups like the one in Three Rivers have been forced to adapt during the past year. But the president of the P.E.I. Senior Citizens Federation said many are finding ways of moving forward with modified activities to keep seniors connected.

"Seniors are a unique bunch, evolving through a lot of things in their lives and they certainly know how to adapt," said Russ Noiles.

"The fellowship is the key part of all the clubs and seniors look for that fellowship and it is pretty hard to keep them down."

Blackette says food left over following the event is dropped off for other seniors.
Blackette says food left over following the event is dropped off for other seniors. (John Robertson/CBC)

Noiles said not only are the gatherings good for seniors' mental health but they also just make life more pleasant.

"We certainly would like to have all clubs back in action, but that will come in due course," he said.

Members like Bessie Arsenault, agree. She said as long as health protocols are in place, she thinks it's essential for everyone to have the chance to mingle.

"Loneliness contributes so much to poor mental health," she said.

"I know for some of the more elderly members of the group, this is probably their only opportunity during the month and I am sure that they really appreciate it and that's important to me."

Blackette says about 80 per cent of the group's members were in attendance on Wednesday.
Blackette says about 80 per cent of the group's members were in attendance on Wednesday. (John Robertson/CBC)

As for Blackette, she said she appreciates her "A-list" group of members and even with the pandemic still limiting what is possible at gatherings, she said she is glad to be returning to some semblance of normal.

"We have food, we have music, we have fun. What more could a group of seniors ask for?"

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