THUNDER BAY - For seniors living in retirement residences, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant not being able to see loved ones or interacting with the public, but a group of young students are doing their part to ensure seniors still feel loved and connected.
Kindergarten students at McKenzie Public School have been busy making artwork and writing letters that have been distributed to seniors at The Walford and Chartwell Thunder Bay.
“We encouraged our students and our families to spread some love,” said McKenzie Public School JK and SK teacher, Cathleen Armstrong. “We had students paint rocks, draw pictures, write letters with things like: you are cared for, you are loved.”
Armstrong said she has taken her students to visit seniors in the past and this was a way to continue creating that intergenerational connection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We thought this would be a wonderful project to spread some love and spread some kindness to the residents of Chartwell because they are confined to their homes and unable to see their loved ones,” she said.
Cards and artwork were dropped off at McKenzie school by families or at Chartwell directly and then distributed to the residents.
Veronica Howarth, lifestyle and program manager with Chartwell Thunder Bay, said the gifts were a welcome surprise for the residents.
“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “It definitely made the resident’s day. They either got a piece of artwork or a letter from a student and or a staff member. They were absolutely thrilled to get these. It was very uplifting.”
Both Armstrong and Howarth agree that it is important to create an intergenerational link between seniors and youth, especially in times like these.
“I think it’s so important to link the younger generation with the older generation because they both gain so much from one another,” Armstrong said. “I think it’s so important for children at an early age to understand and realize that these people are alone and isolated from the ones they love.”
That isolation can be difficult for seniors living in retirement residences, as visitation is restricted to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable segments of the population.
So having students, or anyone reaching out, is important for reminding seniors that they are remembered and loved and feel a connection to the community.
“We are not able to have any visitors in our building so I think receiving thanks or even just a simple you are loved and we still remember you, I think is so important,” Howarth said. “Some people don’t have family in town or relatives able to drop off items or letters, so hearing it from anybody in the community really brightens their spirits.”