Party lines making comeback for Island seniors through new program

With the start of the new year comes a modern twist on an old favourite. A new program aims to connect people across the Island through a weekly phone discussions led by a moderator.

Seniors' Secretariat has a new project, the PEI Party Line for people to listen in, chat and learn

Paul H. Schurman says people might remember the party lines before the dial system came into place. (CBC)

With the start of the new year comes a modern twist on an old favourite. 

Seniors on the Island will soon be able to participate, or just listen in, on party line conversations through a new program started by P.E.I.'s Seniors' Secretariat.

Seniors, of course, always want to continue to learn.- Paul H. Schurman

On select Fridays, people can call a toll-free number and be connected to a 45-minute discussion led by a moderator. Anyone is welcome to join. 

The first session will be with historian Dutch Thompson. Other topics include dementia awareness, all things tea, overcoming fatigue, and the weather.

Connecting people

The project was started in hopes of reaching out to seniors.

Paul H. Schurman, the party line's moderator, says the service will offer "practical information and opportunities for fun and friendship." 

"We're in the business to advise the minister of the day and so this is another way of getting out to Islanders, telling what the Seniors' Secretariat is all about, what we represent and what we do through the year to advise seniors wherever they may be," he said. "You can do it from your home, if you're in community care or a nursing home, or even at work, take the time to make the call." 

Schurman says he's looking forward to hearing from Islanders. (Submitted by Paul H. Schurman)

Schurman says the idea is to evoke the party lines that people once used in communities across the Island. 

"The first experiences with a telephone at home, in the country of course, were memorable ones. There was a special ring for each subscriber and the sound of a neighbour accidentally perhaps picking up the telephone during a conversation," he said. 

'We know what's going on each end'

There is no cost to join, but people do have to register ahead of time for the specific programs. They do not have to give their names during the calls if they don't want to, he said.

Schurman says he believes people above 50 will use the program. He hopes it will help seniors connect with one another, although that isn't often a problem on the Island.

"We know what's going on each end of the Island because that's what Islanders are all about. We're a party line group."

Different topics and guests

As moderator, Schurman said his job will be to make sure things stay orderly, and people talk one at a time. The retired broadcaster is looking forward to the participation and guest speakers.

"As an old radio man it's nice to be able to talk to people on the line and from one end of the Island to the other," he said. "We hope that people will join in and who knows, you may learn a thing or two. Seniors, of course, always want to continue to learn."

The program is scheduled to go into February. Schurman says if it's a success it could continue.

To get the full list of programs and to register, you can call 902-620-3785, or toll-free 1-866-770-0588.​