How these P.E.I. sisters have been making seniors smile for nearly 2 decades

·4 min read
Molly White, left, and her sister Ann Campbell have been volunteering at seniors homes together for 18 years. (Hannah Bryenton/CBC News - image credit)
Molly White, left, and her sister Ann Campbell have been volunteering at seniors homes together for 18 years. (Hannah Bryenton/CBC News - image credit)

Molly White and her sister Ann Campbell spend a lot of time singing, dancing and playing musical instruments together — for a very specific kind of audience.

For the last 18 years, the sisters have been volunteering to entertain at senior care facilities all over Prince Edward Island.

They say they continue to perform after all these years because of the joy it brings to the residents.

"We try to sing songs that they can relate to and that brings back memories for them," Campbell said. "It's not about us, it's about them."

"One big plus or positive that I truly look forward to is seeing the smiles on their faces," said White.

Hannah Bryenton/CBC News
Hannah Bryenton/CBC News

The sisters both have backgrounds in nursing — specifically working with seniors.

A few years before Campbell retired in 2008, she was working as a program co-ordinator at a Charlottetown nursing home. That's where and when she and White began performing together.

They call their musical duo "Just Wee Two" because it's always been just the two of them. White said the "wee" part is because they're both quite short.

"We [performed] a few years before, but we were just called Ann and Molly then," White said. "But now we have our own name and matching, different-coloured shirts."

Hannah Bryenton/CBC News
Hannah Bryenton/CBC News

Campbell and White said some of their favourite songs to perform for the seniors are Enjoy Yourself, Show Me the Way to Go Home and The Tennessee Waltz.

Campbell often plays the guitar and fiddle, while White plays the piano and banjo. They both play the ukulele and step dance as well.

"Oh my, the joy and enjoyment of seeing those smiles and wanting to get up and dance," said Campbell.

Navigating COVID-19 restrictions

In March 2020, the Chief Public Health Office announced restrictions for long-term care facilities and nursing homes on P.E.I., in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following these guidelines, entertainers were no longer allowed to perform inside the care facilities.

Campbell and White said it was a really hard time for residents because they were isolated from family members as well.

So, the sisters took their performances outside. Residents were able to gather inside and watch them perform through the windows at different seniors' homes.

"It was emotional that they were so isolated," White said. "So to have something to lift their spirits for an hour, it was really, really heartwarming. But, it was emotional because we knew those residents really well, so it was hard not to interact."

White and Campbell are allowed to entertain inside the homes again, but still have to wear masks, even while singing, and physically distance themselves from the residents.

Hannah Bryenton/CBC News
Hannah Bryenton/CBC News

"What's really hard with the masks is that they don't see our smiles," White said. "They can hear it in our voices, they see it in our eyes, but that personal side of [seeing our] faces is what I really miss."

The sisters said each home where they entertain has been very accommodating while navigating restrictions.

They said some homes put residents in cohorts so they can perform to a smaller group of people, while other homes gather their residents in large communal areas, such as dining rooms, to make physical distancing possible.

'A special feeling'

White said she laughs when she tells people they entertain at seniors' homes because she and Campbell are seniors themselves, although the residents don't see them that way.

And the sisters agree they'll keep entertaining until they physically can't anymore.

Hannah Bryenton/CBC
Hannah Bryenton/CBC

"It's a special feeling, it's hard to describe it," White said.

"I like to give, and my day is going to come," Campbell said. "I hope I'll get that same enjoyment."

The sisters said normally they take some time off in the summer for vacation, but not this year.

Both Campbell and White said they're happy to finally be back entertaining the residents face-to-face — albeit masked — after two years of uncertainty.

"It's just the love of the seniors and the love of bringing an hour of enjoyment," said White. .

"We get just as much enjoyment as they do," said Campbell.

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