Volunteers Help Fight Senior Loneliness

The COVID-19 pandemic poses so many challenges to seniors such as isolation, loneliness and loss of independence. It is certainly not easy for anyone, but it has been wonderful to hear how the staff, residents and families are coming up with ingenious solutions to lockdown in long term care and senior living communities all over North America. For instance, we have heard about communities that are holding hallway bingo games where residents sit at the entrance to their doorways but can still see their neighbors. Other communities play tic-tac-toe on the windows, with family members painting on the outside of the glass and the resident painting on the inside.

One of our Vigil team members, Kara, held a ‘social distance’ birthday party for her grandma. Family members surrounded her grandma’s house, having placed {sanitized} gifts in the driveway. When the whole family joined in a chorus of happy birthday from safe distances, there was not a dry eye to be seen. It was a very special birthday.

But although we are all experiencing the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Sadly, there are many homeless seniors who are facing the pandemic with nowhere to self-isolate. It’s been wonderful to see how many people in our city have been pulling out the stops by doing whatever they can to help.

For instance, another Vigil team member {who is working from home} has been helping in a local shelter where homeless seniors can take refuge. Seniors who are living on the streets are offered a place to sleep, warm showers, laundry facilities and nutritious home-cooked meals made from fresh ingredients and hot drinks. They are collected from various points around the town and transported in a van, 2 at a time, so that they can maintain a safe distance. Once at the shelter, they are provided with a place to wash their hands before entry and then offered bottles of hand sanitizer and a face mask which they are free to take with them when they leave. The masks and sanitizer have been donated by local independent businesses and other individuals who have stepped up and met the need. Other local companies are donating food for hampers. Yet others have provided hydration drinks and re-usable water bottles that the people can take away and use through the day. In fact, there have been so many donations that when everyone at the shelter has been looked after, the team drive out into the city and distribute warm food to homeless people who are staying in tents.

When guests come to the shelter and present with any kind of symptoms, staff follow local health authority protocol and give them an isolated quiet place to rest and refer them to the appropriate professionals if necessary.

We will emerge from this storm, each of us in our own way. Although we all have unique challenges, many of us are fortunate enough to have unique opportunities to extend a neighborly hand of friendship and empathy. It has been heart-warming to experience the milk of human kindness flowing through our communities during these uncertain times.

By Kay Hebbourn