'Wall of sweet words' spreads cheer to Montreal seniors dealing with COVID-19 isolation

To cheer up the seniors they serve, a Ville-Émard community group decided to make a “wall of sweet words,” asking different community spaces to solicit kind messages from their clients.

February campaign asks people to write kind messages to residents of Ville-Émard seniors' complex

Ingrid Viranyi-Décary, co-ordinator of the ACHIM community centre, says seniors love reading the kind messages sent by people in the Ville-Émard neighbourhood. (Charles Content/CBC)

In early January, residents of a community housing complex for seniors in Ville-Émard were feeling down. Officials had announced a new wave of COVID-19 restrictions. The days were short and cold. People were tired of the pandemic.

Then, the staff had an idea.

To cheer up the seniors they serve, they decided to make a "wall of sweet words," asking different community spaces — such as the Marie-Uguay library and Café Central on Allard Street — to put "Valentine's boxes" in their locations.

The library and café asked their clients to write kind messages for the seniors. Then, staff at the Alternatives communautaires d'habitation et d'intervention de milieu (ACHIM) retrieved the messages, and taped them onto a wall of the cafeteria. 

"We wanted to organize something that would be unifying. We wanted to bring together different groups from the neighbourhood," said Ingrid Viranyi-Décary, co-ordinator of the community centre ACHIM, which is also a non-profit housing complex for about 80 seniors in the Sud-Ouest borough.

WATCH | Residents explain what the wall of words means to them:

‘It’s a joy for me just to see the wall,’ says resident

7 months ago
Duration 2:14
To raise spirits, a seniors’ complex in Ville-Émard started gathering “sweet words” from the surrounding community. With collection boxes set up at libraries and cafés, all are welcome to write a note or draw a picture to be posted on the “wall of sweet words” inside the centre.

"The seniors that live here, they can see the messages every day, and it brings happiness and a little bit of joy."

The project ran for all of February, and Viranyi-Décary says they've received more than 100 messages. 

In addition to messages from the café and library, they've also received some from a school. The seniors who live at ACHIM are also welcome to post their own messages on the wall.

Messages taped to the wall range from short poems, to Valentine's Day cards, to art done by children.

One says, "You are loved."

"You are beautiful," and "XOXO big hugs," say others. One drawing featured two friends sitting together making a heart shape with their canes.

In addition to receiving messages from a nearby café and library, a school sent some kind messages to seniors at ACHIM. (Charles Content/CBC)

A hit with seniors

Viranyi-Décary said the messages helped lift spirits during a challenging time for seniors.

"I want to thank all those people that took that time to send us those nice notes. It makes you feel good," said Lina Blain, a resident at ACHIM.  "I think that there's still a lot of good people in this world and I want to thank all of them."

Catherine Chiasson, who moved into ACHIM about a month ago, said she has enjoyed reading the growing number of messages.

"It's a joy for me to see the wall," she said. "It helps everybody, you know, because today, with all that's going on, we need this. We need this."

"To all the people that put everything there, I thank them from the bottom of my heart."

About 80 seniors live at ACHIM on Monk Boul., including Catherine Chiasson, second from the right, and Lina Blain, far right. (Charles Content/CBC)

Viranyi-Décary says people can still submit kind messages until the end of the month. She says they're considering bringing back the campaign next year.


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