Personal Stories

The best birthday surprise during coronavirus

What happened when we challenged Canadians to sing on video for two Amica residents celebrating their birthdays?

A collage of happy birthday wishes for Amica residents Marj and Mary

What happens when you ask Canadians to brighten the days of two seniors celebrating birthdays in isolation at a Windsor retirement residence during the pandemic? You get a tremendous outpouring of support.

A team member at Amica Riverside gave us a tip that two residents who were celebrating their birthdays in April could use a little boost. So we invited Amica followers on social media to sing happy birthday to Marj and Mary and send us a video as part of our Smiles for Seniors campaign to bring Canadians together to show support for older adults in isolation. Like so many seniors, these birthday ladies would be apart from their families because, for safety, visitors are restricted to reduce the spread COVID-19.

We had no idea what to expect when we posted the birthday song challenge on Facebook and Instagram. We’d had great submissions when we challenged everyone to share photos of spring flowers or their pets for Smiles for Seniors, but how would people respond to a request to sing for strangers?

Within hours, we had our answer. The birthday challenge post had more than 6,100 likes and was shared by more than 460 people. The 1,700 comments posted in response to our fun challenge would lift anyone’s spirits. People posted birthday wishes, cheerful messages, cute emojis and digital photos of fireworks, birthday cakes, flowers and cute animals. Greetings for these two women living in Ontario poured in from towns and cities across Canada, including Port Renfrew, B.C., Calling Lake, A.B. Maple Creek, Sask., Ottawa, Montreal, Sussex, N.B. and Twillingate, Nfld.

In less than a day, we received enough birthday songs from caring individuals, couples and families to edit these submissions into a short birthday video. Life Enrichment Assistant Sara Nussey had the pleasure of showing the residents our surprise when she went to their suites. “It was so much fun,” she said. “Mary got emotional and I got emotional. They’re very sweet ladies.”

Thank to everyone who made this possible by recording a song, spreading the word or posting a supportive comment to help us create #smilesforseniors. You turned another day in isolation into a lovely memorable birthday for two grateful seniors.