A collage of photo submissions from the Amica Smiles for Seniors website

Anna, 14, was disappointed but understanding when she learned she would be unable to visit her friend Kris, a resident at Amica Lions Gate, due to COVID-19. Concerned about Kris feeling lonely without visitors, the Vancouver teen was determined to stay connected to her “great-grand-friend,” as the senior is fondly known in the family; many decades earlier, Kris had been the nanny for Anna’s grandfather. Anna started drawing and sending colouring pages to Kris and other friends and family to brighten their days and make them feel a little less lonely while everyone stayed apart to stay safe due to coronavirus. If one person’s actions could brighten someone’s day, imagine the impact if we invited the whole country to share caring gestures?

Anna's desire for connection — to show loved ones we care about them even though we can’t be together in person — was exactly the sentiment behind our Smiles for Seniors campaign. When coronavirus became a global pandemic, our first priority was protecting our residents and team members (you can read here about Amica’s many responsive measures to combat COVID-19). The Smiles for Seniors campaign was born from our wish to contribute to the emotional well-being of all seniorswho might be vulnerable to feeling isolated and lonely during social distancing. 

How Smiles for Seniors worked

Thanks to everyday Canadians, celebrities and coverage from media outlets such as Global News, Smiles for Seniors quickly blossomed into a social movement to show support for seniors across the land. Through our weekly challenges on Facebook and Instagram, we invited Canadians to come together to share a quick photo or message — along with the hashtag #smilesforseniors — to bring a smile to seniors wherever they live.

Thousands of likes

The response was absolutely tremendous. In the first two months of the campaign, we received tens of thousands of likes on Facebook, thousands of positive comments, and hundreds of people shared the campaign. Most importantly, we brought joy to seniors — and to everyone showing compassion for them — by posting your uplifting photos, videos and messages .

Hundreds of inspiring submissions

Through our weekly challenges, we requested everything from videos of your best clean jokes to snapshots from your long weekend. One week, we created a virtual tour of spring gardens from your beautiful pictures of newly sprouted daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs. Another week, you responded to our travel challenge with favourite vacation photos from faraway destinations. We’re still smiling over the pet photos you shared of your adorable dogs and cats to give seniors some virtual pet therapy.

Each morning Julia Werstuck has the pleasure of checking our in-box to see the latest messages from Canadians helping bring joy to seniors. “It feels like a warm hug knowing these little moments of love and happiness can put a smile on a senior’s face during a difficult time,” says Amica’s Assistant Manager, Brand Marketing. “I feel so lucky to read such inspiring stories of connection.”

Most memorable Smiles challenges

The response to our Mother’s Day challenge brought thoughtful, heartfelt messages from Canadians showing gratitude for lessons they’d learned from their moms — moments we know would resonate with seniors missing their families. When we had residents celebrating birthdays in April without their families, you shared thousands of well wishes and sang happy birthday so we could create this fun birthday video as a surprise gift for the two delighted seniors.

Even celebrities shared smiles

Celebrities shared the love, too. Actress Grego Minot shared the Smiles campaign with her many followers and shared artwork created by her children. Pet influencers were incredibly supportive and used the hashtag to help us spread our message of caring and hope. We reached thousands more people thanks to cute posts by Sphynx cats named Peaches and Pickles, and Weber, a Burmese Mountain Dog.