The Phoning Seniors Together program, run through the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, will connect volunteers with seniors for phone conversations. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Phoning Seniors Together program, run through the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, will connect volunteers with seniors for phone conversations. (Black Press Media file photo)

Program makes a connection with isolated Victoria seniors

Phoning Seniors Together program lines up volunteers with seniors at Luther Court

A new program being put on by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is helping connect people in isolation with a senior who may be feeling isolated for a phone conversation.

Libby Oliver, listener-in-residence, began the project — although with different objectives — about five or six months ago. She would meet with a group of seniors at Luther Court, a non-profit senior care home, and then visit them one-on-one, building relationships and getting to know them with the aim of making photo portraits about them. Since the pandemic hit, the program has had to shift to take into account social distancing regulations.

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Libby Oliver, listener-in-residence for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, says it’s important to understand how to embrace each other even when we’re being told to stay apart. (Photo by Kelsey Legault)

When Luther Court went into lockdown, Oliver continued to connect with one elderly woman over the phone.

“She’s blind and doesn’t have access to books to read or audio stuff but she also just likes having a conversation so I’ve been calling her a couple of times a week, going through different poetry books. It works both ways, it’s really enjoyable for me,” said Oliver.

Now, the Phoning Seniors Together program, which already has 30-plus participants signed up, will connect people with a senior who is looking for some conversation through phone calls to help ease these lonely times.

“It’s the perfect time to initiate a program like this because everyone is at home and trying to understand the different ways you can have community,” said Oliver. “And the different ways to understand coming together when we’re told to stay apart.”

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Participants fill out a short survey and receive guidelines or suggestions on how to structure the conversation before being connected to a senior within a week or two.

“These restrictions are coming into play because we’re a part of this greater community, and I guess being able to feel that actual connection point and make it a bit more tangible and real is helpful,” Oliver said. “You can feel that person rather than [just hearing about] this vulnerable population.”

Broadmead Centre is also looking at ways to help connect people with seniors and has created a website that allows people to send virtual stories, art, photos and letters to residents.

“It’s important to be understanding how we can embrace each other even when [we’re figuring out] how to renavigate how we structure society.”

To get involved in the program visit bit.ly/2JxdJvs.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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