The technology that connects people across northwestern Ontario for medical consultations is being used as a vital social link.

Once each month, elders in remote communities visit with the help of video-conferencing equipment, enabling them to see one another talking, singing and laughing.

Recently Solomon Beardy used video conferencing to greet his fellow elders hundreds of kilometres away from his community of Sachigo Lake First Nation during a holiday celebration.

Translated from Oji-Cree,  he said it was a "privilege we enjoy as elders to gather together in this way and to visit with each other from far-flung places."

'They really do enjoy it'

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Wesley McKay, education co-ordinator for Keewaytinook Okimakanak E-Health, says connecting remote communities so elders can socialize is important. (Nicole Ireland/CBC )

Those far-flung places are in the dozens — and socially connecting the people who live there is important, said Wesley McKay.

McKay ran the video conference from the Keewaytinook Okimakanak E-Health office in Thunder Bay. 

"This is huge, because the elders are able to see and hear each other," he said.

"The cost for airfare between communities to actually visit each other is quite high, so they do really enjoy it."

They were also able to watch youngsters sing and dance.

Jim Keesic, who lives in Thunder Bay, but grew up in Red Lake, said he and his wife joined in a recent Christmas "video-conference party" for elders.

"We're watching other communities from the north and I like doing this because I know a lot of people from the north," he said.

Keewaytinook Okimakanak E-Health started the video conferences eight years ago in remote communities for health education.