PEI

Island seniors hope for cautious approach to easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Some Island seniors say they are grateful to be resuming more activities outside the home, but hope the province takes a cautious approach to lifting the remaining public health restrictions.

Many say province shouldn't rush to remove mask mandate

Olive Bryanton would like to see fewer cases on P.E.I. before mask mandates are dropped. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC )

Some Island seniors say they are grateful to be resuming more activities outside the home but hope the province takes a cautious approach to lifting remaining public health restrictions.

Earlier this month, P.E.I.'s chief public health office announced an end to some restrictions, including limits on personal gatherings, and businesses operating at full capacity. But the decision was made to continue with the mask mandate until at least April 28. 

"My feeling is let's take it slow, let's be sure," said Olive Bryanton, a longtime advocate for seniors.

"When you look at the numbers today and then you hear, well, you can take your masks off, that really worries me. I think we can survive another little while wearing the mask, and just for protection, until we see real evidence that the pandemic is going away and not constantly hearing, oh, there's a new strain." 

Bryanton says for many Island seniors there's a desire to keep masking in place, as long as cases continue to surge on P.E.I. 

'Let's just take our time'

"I'm 85 years old, and I never thought I would ever live through something like this," said Bryanton. "But here we are and we're still surviving. So let's just take our time and make sure it's well on its way out before we start loosening up all the restrictions and all the preventions we've had." 

Linda Patton feels the same. She's enjoying getting out a bit more as restrictions ease. But said the pandemic has meant added strain for seniors, especially those who are more vulnerable due to medical conditions. 

Linda Patton says she's in no rush to have things return to pre-pandemic norms, with COVID-19 cases still so prevalent on P.E.I. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"There were times where, being a senior, you would worry about it a little bit more, and particularly for my husband, who would be immune compromised," said Patton. 

Like many, Patton connected with family and friends virtually through much of the pandemic, and has enjoyed returning to some events and to church in person. But she's in no rush to have things return to pre-pandemic norms, with COVID-19 cases still so prevalent on P.E.I. 

"I think wearing a mask is an easier thing to do than shutting down businesses," said Patton. 

"It seems like it's not a lot to ask. I might feel differently if I had to work all day with a mask on, but I am concerned about the restrictions being dropped now with the number of cases we have."

Seniors Navigator position established on P.E.I.

A new position was recently created in the province to assist and advocate for seniors. 

The new Seniors Navigator, Melanie Melanson, started in the role in January. She says since then, she's been fielding calls from seniors, their caregivers, and family members on everything from housing to health programs to COVID-19. Melanson said with so much uncertainty around the ongoing pandemic, it's good to have a new resource just for seniors. 

Melanie Melanson, the province's new Seniors Navigator, says she's already receiving calls on everything from housing to health programs to COVID-19. (Submitted)

"Especially as the pandemic goes on and seniors aren't feeling comfortable getting out and going places to visit or to find out their information," said Melanson. 

"The calls come directly to me and I can answer their questions immediately or I may need to find out further information for them, but we'll get back to them. So it's there. And I think for them to have that ability, to make that call and get their answer, will make them even feel more secure." 

Melanson has recently begun offering in-person appointments at Access P.E.I. locations across the Island to connect with seniors. She said her role will also be to identify gaps in service, and work as an advocate for Island seniors. 

"I hope it gives seniors that feeling of confidence that they know that there's somebody out there that they can just call and ask their questions to and just feel comfortable to do that," she said. 

Anyone looking to reach P.E.I.'s Seniors Navigator can call 1-866-770-0588 or email seniors@gov.pe.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

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