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Finding creative ways to stay connected

A mobile cart allows happy hour to continue at The Journey Club. The Calgary residence also now has hallway exercises and a daily newsletter to keep residents engaged. PHOTO contributed by The Journey Club

At Calgary's age-in-place seniors residence The Journey Club, the 125 residents are generally an active bunch. A full recreation calendar of monthly cribbage tournaments, weekly art classes, outings and even a happy hour and pub nights have been put on hold because of Covid-19, but that hasn't stopped the facility's recreation team from finding creative ways to keep residents engaged and feel connected to their community.

"We don't know how long these measures will last, so our team has come up with innovative and exciting opportunities for our residents to continue to have fun during this strange time," said Journey Club executive director Al Boileau. "The community has come together in the last two weeks, more than ever before."

While daily exercise classes are cancelled, residents can now partake in seated exercise classes in the hallway of each floor. With chairs placed outside each suite, but six-feet or more apart to maintain social distancing, residents can start their day with an activity that is fun, healthy and spirit-lifting, according to Boileau. The same goes for afternoon sing-alongs, when residents come out onto their balconies overlooking the courtyard to make music together.

"We know how powerful music is and how it can move us in so many ways--physically, emotionally and psychologically. These sing-alongs have truly lifted spirits and strengthened our sense of community," added Boileau. 

An ingenious idea to replace the residence's cancelled happy hour is a mobile drink cart that now enables staff to bring a glass of wine or cocktail to each suite at the designated time. It's an obviously well-received idea. There's also mega-bingo, which residents and staff play from their suites and offices. Each morning, 2 or 3 bingo numbers are pulled and communicated to all through email and newsletter. The game goes until bingo is called with a full card/blackout.

A vital touchpoint to all is a daily newsletter delivered to each suite, with activities inside (crossword, sudoku, fun facts) and a chronicle of what happened that day in history. Residents are even invited to offer a 'Who Am I?' write-up to the newsletter, and to contribute to the armchair travel pieces highlighted in each day's issue with their own travel tales.

Boileau said The Journey Club is sharing its ideas with neighbouring facilities in Calgary, and sister sites in Edmonton as a way to entertain and connect residents who are confined to their residences. 

"Our residents are grateful for the staff's dedication, compassion and perseverence that keeps everyone positive," Boileau said."We know that when we pull together as a community--a family--we'll get through this."