'Give a smile, get a smile': Students find creative way to connect with seniors while visits banned
Second Street Community School students are sending messages, pictures and cards to seniors at Normanna Living
The big posterboards that are on display throughout the hallways of Normanna Living, a 100 bed seniors facility in Burnaby, are covered with photos, messages, cards and pictures from nearby Second Street Community School.
The messages started showing up after Normanna suspended face-to-face visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many residents feeling down and lonely.
Leslie Torresan, the manager of recreation, volunteers and community relations, believes pictures of smiling children are the perfect remedy to loneliness, so she reached out to the school and asked for help.
"We thought, why can't we do something to cheer everyone up?" she said.
"That's when we came up with an idea — give a smile, get a smile."
Normanna residents put together posters of things that made them smile, such as their families, politeness or playing table tennis.
A man named Bob, 76, has a picture of a casino on his poster and a 93-year-old resident named Mary included a picture of actor Robert Redford.
"Robert Redford makes her smile," Torresan said laughing. "He made a lot of people smile."
Staff then took pictures of the seniors with their posters and sent them to the school, which prompted students to respond with pictures and messages of their own.
"The residents are absolutely thrilled," Torresan said. "As soon as they see the pictures, they smile."
The school has been connected to the seniors facility for some time now, inviting residents to special events and sending the choir over to perform concerts.
Students planned to visit Normanna in April, but the trip was postponed because of physical distancing rules.
Burnaby School District community school co-ordinator Gayle Beavil says it's just as important for young people to stay connected with their neighbours during the pandemic as it is for seniors.
"It's an ongoing relationship we try to have with the centre and other places in the community," she said.
"It's really important to keep the community connected."
When visiting restrictions are lifted, Torresan plans to throw a party at Normanna so that students and residents can discuss in person what makes them smile.
"It's going to be a big carnival," she said.
"But first, the residents have to finish their thank you cards to the students."
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