When COVID-19 swept the world, many were impacted, perhaps none more so than our communities’ elderly. Protective physical distancing measures resulted in extended restrictions on visitation to long-term care facilities, leaving many seniors feeling isolated.
For our team at Seven Generations (7G), this sparked an idea that could provide an outlet for our community spirit and volunteerism to continue throughout the pandemic.
“Through our 7G Seniors Chat Program, our employees connect with seniors by phone or tablet to have a conversation, brighten their day and let them know they are not alone,” said Cindy Park, Director of Community Engagement at 7G. “It’s been incredibly successful so far and has resulted in many new and lovely friendships.”
Through the pilot program, a partnership between 7G, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital Foundation, residents at Mackenzie Place continuing care facility in Grande Prairie connect with 7G employees on regular basis.
“We know that loneliness can have a negative impact on both mental and physical wellbeing,” said Stacy Greening, AHS Senior Operating Officer for Grande Prairie. “So when Seven Generations reached out with the idea for the Seniors Chat Program, it was clear that this was something we wanted to support.”
“We’ve worked with Seven Generations on several projects and it is always a pleasure to be able to help them achieve their vision,” says Dawn Miller of the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital Foundation.
AHS’ Recreation Therapy department staff help participants get connected using tablets that have been donated by 7G.
“The residents enjoy the company and are able to maintain socialization, even with the physical distancing measures,” said Del Theroux, a recreation therapy assistant. “Feedback has also been very positive from the volunteers who get to virtually meet and learn from the residents.”
One resident, Doreen, says she looks forward to the interaction each week with Kim Olness, who works our 7G accounting team.
“Del invited me to take part in the program and pretty soon I met Kim,” added Doreen. “She’s very nice and bubbly. We talk about her cat, reading, I’ve shown her some of my artwork I’ve done in my room here. We chat about every little thing you can think of.”
Olness adds she enjoys her video chats with Doreen — and that the program has brought her benefits she hadn’t anticipated.
“Doreen wants to hear about things going on in my life just as much as I want to get to know her. It’s really made me step outside of my bubble,” she said.
“Especially during this time, it’s easy to get isolated and worry only about what’s going on in your day-to-day life and forget about other people. She was a complete stranger to me before COVID and now she means a lot to me, which was something I didn’t really expect. As much as I joined this to be a volunteer, she’s helped me as well.”
There are currently 14 7G volunteers in the program and 10 residents at Mackenzie Place. Plans are also underway to continue the program once the pandemic has passed, possibly expanding it to other communities and facilities throughout the province.
7G volunteer and Director of Community Engagement, Cindy Park visits with her senior, Ida Koss, a resident of Mackenzie Place. (Photo courtesy of Seven Generations Energy)
Berniece and Cliff Sydbo chat with a 7G employee volunteer. The 7G Seniors Chat Program partners Seven Generations volunteers with continuing care residents for virtual visits each week to brighten their day. (Photo courtesy AHS Recreation Therapy)