Nfld. & Labrador

Seniors shake off 4 months of lockdown with drinks and music on George Street

Road trip! Residents of Alderwood Estates in Witless Bay took back some of their freedom Friday afternoon.

Road trip! Residents of Alderwood Estates in Witless Bay took back some of their freedom Friday afternoon

'The minute that the OK was given for them to break out, they broke out, and they did it in high style,' says Alderwood Estates' director of recreation. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Residents of Alderwood Estates in Witless Bay took back some of their freedom Friday afternoon by jumping on a party bus and heading to O'Reilly's Pub on George Street in downtown St. John's. 

All told, 25 seniors — many of them in their 90s — headed off to enjoy an afternoon of drinks, food and live music after four months in lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're enjoying life. We broke out," said resident Ann Coady. "It's wonderful, just to be free. We were barred up for four months, weren't allowed to see no one, weren't allowed out. It's frustrating. Now we're free. Free as the birds."

With public health restrictions easing somewhat, residents of the seniors home were itching to get out, said Rene Houlihan, Alderwood Estates' director of recreation.

Some 25 seniors from the Witless Bay seniors home enjoyed an afternoon on George Street on Friday after four months in lockdown as a result of COVID-19. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"This gang is a little bit of rabble-rousers. The minute that the OK was given for them to break out, they broke out, and they did it in high style."

Special order

The residents had the pub to themselves on Friday. 

O'Reilly's closed to the public for a few hours to allow the seniors to relax in comfort, and within their own bubble. 

Food was ordered ahead of time, and a lot of work was done on O'Reilly's side and on that of Alderwood to make the event possible, said Houlihan. 

Owner Brenda O'Reilly was on hand to welcome her customers. O'Reilly said she knows the importance of senior activities after her own mother spent two years in a long-term-care facility.

Dancing in bars is still prohibited in Newfoundland and Labrador, but that didn't stop the residents from Alderwood Estates from tapping their feet under their tables. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"It's everything. There's not enough senior care and not enough activities for seniors in the province," O'Reilly said. 

"It doesn't matter if they have dementia, or if they're in long-term care for other reasons, getting out is everything. Being able to do your normal activities, being able to do the things you enjoy, getting some air and enjoying a social environment, I think that's everything."

Houlihan said it's not sustainable for retirement homes to remain on lockdown, while people in the rest of the province — along with people from the three other Atlantic provinces — are free to roam.

"The thing is about COVID, we understand how vulnerable the seniors are. But really and truly we have to find pathways that are safe to allow them to experience life," she said.

"This is the sunset of their life. Locking them away is not an option."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton

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