How seniors can maintain friendships during COVID-19 and why it matters

Connecting friends in senior living residences and the community boosts spirits and health during the Coronavirus pandemic

Residents sharing a Zoom video call together

We all love that warm feeling that comes from talking with a friend or a great conversation with a new acquaintance. But did you know that social connection can actually boost your health and extend your life? Staying social and feeling connected is especially important for Canadian seniors today, who are at increased risk of loneliness and isolation during coronavirus visitor restrictions, imposed for safety by health authorities. Here’s how Amica team members are empowering residents to connect with innovative virtual and distance programs — and any senior or caregiver can do the same.

Relationship building is crucial, because it creates purpose and meaning for Amica residents and seniors generally, says Heather Palmer, Amica’s Cognitive Well-Being Advisor. “Even before COVID-19, it was predicted that within the next 10 years loneliness will be the No. 1 risk factor for death among seniors — a greater risk factor than heart disease.”

Growing senior friendships online

Residents at Amica Westboro Park and local seniors have enjoyed virtual exercise classes, a fun weekly trivia night and special events twice a month — including remote cocktail hours, cooking lessons and art sessions. Amica team members drop off baskets of supplies so participants have what they need to make a recipe or an art project online together.

“Seniors want to do things, but they can't get out of their house to get supplies. We remove that obstacle,” says Erin Courtney, Community Relations Director at Amica Westboro Park. “New friendships form and they invite their old friends, too. One resident hadn’t seen a pal from her seniors’ club in person for over a year. You should have seen their glowing faces when they saw each other in an online session for the first time — it was just the sweetest thing.”

Contact your local Amica Senior Lifestyles residence about similar opportunities to connect, plus follow Amica Senior Lifestyles on Facebook to learn about upcoming Webinars for Seniors, as well as art activities presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Safely connecting seniors

Amica has been proactively exceeding COVID-19 safety protocols while helping residents stay engaged, but nothing compares with seeing loved ones in person. Amica team members have enabled holiday window visits, as well as masked and socially distanced in-person visits throughout the year, where permitted.

“I got to see the love and excitement as a resident saw his best friend of EIGHTY YEARS again,” says Samantha Leger, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Amica Stoney Creek. “They had feared that they wouldn’t make it through [the pandemic]. It’s moments like these that remind me why I do what I do.”

Likewise, Amica Westboro Park team members adore introducing newcomers to the residents’ welcoming committee and watching friendships bloom. “It’s so heartwarming to see, because the residents know how important it is to have a friend when you’re moving for the first time in 30 or 40 years,” explains Julia Riddick, Community Relations Assistant.

Poignant anecdotes like these remind caregivers and seniors alike to schedule regular calls and video chats with isolated friends and neighbours, to sign up for online social and exercise programs and to check in on each other. (Read more about preventing isolation and loneliness in seniors.)

“We really want what’s best for seniors in their day-to-day life,” says Courtney. “If we can prevent someone from being in a walker because they’re exercising virtually or stop someone from being depressed because they get to see new friends online each week, then that’s a win for everyone.”

Schedule a tour to learn more about inspiring lifestyles for seniors including exceptional dining, amenities, activities and flexible, personalized care.