COVID-19 closed a YMCA's doors, so staffers started checking in on local seniors
'It felt like a nice way to connect with the community,' says Ashley Smith of the YMCA of Pictou County
With the YMCA in New Glasgow, N.S., closed because of COVID-19, child-care staff at the facility are using their time to call seniors in the community and see how they're doing.
"There's a lot of people who may not have people living in their homes, or family left to contact them, or friends that are close enough to help them out," said Ashley Smith, director of child care at the YMCA of Pictou County.
Staff have made 177 calls so far, contacting anyone who has stepped foot in the YMCA in the last five years.
Smith said she thought it would be hard for staff to make the calls and that the people on the other end wouldn't be interested in chatting.
"But a lot of people were very excited to talk and some of these calls lasted more than half an hour," Smith said.
'Virtual coffee chat'
Tammy Goodwin, executive director for the YMCA of Pictou County, said most of the people they spoke to have their needs met, but 30 per cent are expressing loneliness.
"One of our staff talked to a woman for half an hour about her cat," Goodwin said.
The idea for the "virtual coffee chat" started after the YMCA closed on March 16 and a board member suggested they should look at how they could help seniors, said Goodwin.
They came up with a script of things to ask about, such as if the seniors needed help getting groceries or pharmacy supplies, do they have someone to help them, or if they need help accessing anything online.
Smith said many of the seniors have said they're doing a lot of walking and spring cleaning to keep busy, but they miss seeing people in the community.
Some seniors noted they were starting to go "shack happy," but most said they were able to call family or video chat with them.
YMCA staff have also taken notes about who to check up on and who would like a call back.
Smith said she's looking forward to future calls.
"It felt like a nice way to connect with the community and a lot of people were appreciative to get the phone call," she said.
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