One thing we know about seniors is that they love to chat. Socializing never requires many resources or planning, but with COVID-19 even that has become a rare commodity.
The pandemic has many senior citizens feeling isolated and lonely. Many feel forced to stay in and away from people because they are one of the most susceptible groups to suffer complications from COVID-19.
Eileen Bragg, 81, resident at the Golden Age Manor, said she passes the time by doing puzzles, watching TV, or talking a walk through the halls of the manor to keep her mind off of what she cannot do because of lockdown restrictions.
“I have a vehicle, I can go out if I like and go for a drive but, what’s the point of that? Especially now, I won’t go it’s too cold so the only time I go anywhere is I will go to the store and then I’ll go and get a few groceries.”
Bragg said feelings of isolation did not creep up until the pandemic. She said the lack of freedom even in the home has left her feeling lonely sometimes. However, Bragg said she is one of the lucky ones because her family calls often but that others are having a much harder time making it through the strict restrictions.
Bragg said she misses meeting her friends in the common room for coffee.
“It’s really sad and I’m sure it’s taken years off people’s lives just not seeing people,” Bragg said. “You can see them but it’s not the same as sitting down with a cup of coffee with them and having a chat.”
Bragg said she decided to start calling people from church and other friends to check in on them.
Due to the increased isolation, many programs are popping up like the Social Engagement project.
Kenora District Homes Community Support Services and Riverside Health Care Community Support Services along with other partners has come together to implement the new Social Engagement project. The project was announced at the beginning of February.
Brenda Wood, manager of Riverside Community Support Services, said they decided to partner with Kenora to better service everyone in the Kenora/ Rainy River District as there is a large geographic area to cover.
Wood added that some residents live in remote areas and have not been able to see their families because of the lockdowns.
“[The project] was mainly brought on because of the increased isolation. We just got more used to seeing the need now after going through this really trying, different year,” Wood said. “It’s been a year for innovations and adapting to getting help to people that need it in a different way. It’s been a real learning curve for sure.”
The services offered through the project include friendly check-ins, security checks and access to resources such as Meals on Wheels, groceries and other services to support seniors such as Canadian Mental Health or older adult programs. Services will be offered by phone or video depending on the individual’s preference and accessibility.
Bragg said she always appreciates a call.
“I think it’s a good program to get into because it’s just nice to hear another person talk and hear another voice and hear what they’re doing,” Bragg said.
Nicole Egan, Community Support Services supervisor in the Rainy River District said seniors can’t do their weekly trip to the grocery store or run an errand and are therefore at home which is affecting their health and wellbeing.
Cindy Noble, manager of the Sister Kennedy Centre, said she has also noticed the effect the pandemic has on seniors’ mental health.
“I’ve heard other people say ‘oh we really noticed declines, she’s more forgetful,’ Noble said. “Even people that you think were in really good shape last March are not doing so well right now.”
Noble said she thinks the community is finally realising that “we need the interaction more than just leaving people on their own.”
Noble said before the pandemic the Sister Kennedy Centre would see about 300 people a week. There were areas to play cards, have coffee, exercise and play pool.
“The more things we have for the seniors to do, the better,” Noble said.
Noble said they are looking into offering programs online over Zoom. She said this will be discussion at their board meeting in the middle of February.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times