Here's how Torontonians vulnerable to COVID-19 are celebrating Mother's Day

Mother's Day is set to be much quieter than usual, so families and organizations have come up with creative ways to celebrate.

Tea parties, virtual visits for vulnerable residents across GTA

Valerie Luttrell is planning a surprise car parade for her 96-year-old mother, Joan Syratt, on Sunday amid COVID-19 restrictions. (Submitted by Valerie Luttrell)

With grey skies and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto's forecast, Mother's Day is set to be a much quieter day than usual for families across the Greater Toronto Area. 

But that's not stopping Valerie Luttrell from planning a special day for Joan Syratt, her 96-year old mother who lives alone and hasn't seen anyone except her daughter during the pandemic. 

"She was getting very depressed, and this is something with seniors," Luttrell told CBC Toronto. "They're stuck on their own, especially if they don't have family close by." 

That's why Luttrell, her family, and other members of their Newmarket, Ont. community have planned a car parade set for Sunday afternoon. They plan to slowly drive by Syratt's home cheering and holding signs. 

"She can see everyone at once and let her know everyone is thinking of her," said Luttrell, who is also a member of Grandparent Connection, a group that promotes local initiatives that support seniors in the community. 

Tea parties, virtual visits in store 

Long-term care homes are also finding new ways to celebrate.

AdvantAge Ontario, which represents some 200 long-term care facilities across the province, says it has planned virtual visits on iPads and scheduled window visits for residents and their families. 

Staff at long-term care homes in Toronto and across Ontario are finding creative ways to celebrate the occasion, including lavishing their facilities with decorations like these. (Submitted by Lindsay Marinovic)

Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge, says one of their homes has also planned multiple tea parties so they can have small groups of people sitting far apart from one another. 

But it's hard for families who want to hug their loved ones, she said, and be physically close to them on Mother's Day. 

"They're trying to do their best to keep up their spirits," Levin said of families with residents in retirement homes. 

"It's tough for them because they want to be able to be with their moms." 

But she added that "everyone is doing the best they can to protect their seniors," especially those living in homes with COVID-19 outbreaks

These colourful greeting cards will be placed outside the rooms of female residents at one of AdvantAge's facilities on Sunday. (Submitted by Lindsay Marinovic)

Meanwhile, residents of a Toronto women and children's shelter are set to receive individual boxes of "high tea" delicacies from a boutique hotel in the city's posh Yorkville neighbourhood. 

"With all that's going on, it's to try to do a little positive where we can," said George Friedmann, president of the Windsor Arms Hotel. 

Residents living at Nellie's Shelter are set to receive a box full of high tea delicacies from the Windsor Arms Hotel as a way of celebrating Mother's Day while physcially distancing. (Submitted by George Friedmann)

Residents of Nellie's Shelter will receive goodies such as scones, clotted creams, jams, quiche, tea sandwiches and petit fours — staples of the hotel's well-known high tea, Friedmann says.

"This pandemic shouldn't impact celebrating one of the most important days of the year," he said, adding that it's important to give back to "mothers in need" during this time of crisis. 

"It's the little things that one has to cherish." 

Ingrid Graham, director of development at the shelter, says their celebration "was in jeopardy" until Windsor Arms reached out.

Graham said the shelter has been affected by several positive cases of COVID-19, making any Mother's Day plans near obsolete. 

"For women in shelters, the opportunity to be celebrated and recognized is amazing." 

Ingrid Graham is the director of development at Nellie's Shelter, which is a 36-bed shelter that serves women and children fleeing violence, poverty and homelessness. (Submitted by Ingrid Graham)

Graham says the need for shelters is growing, not lessening, despite an increased risk for shelter residents due to COVID-19.

Celebrate virtually, officials say 

As the city begins to slowly reopen and lax certain COVID-19 restrictions, Torontonians are still being urged to physically distance from one another.

Health officials say residents and family members of the city's most vulnerable populations — including those experiencing homelessness and seniors, groups which have both been hit particularly hard by the virus — must be especially prudent in following the directives. 

And Mother's Day is no exception, officials say. 

"I know that many of us will find it difficult not to visit with family this weekend," Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, said at a news conference this week. 

"I encourage you to find creative ways to stay connected virtually and by phone." 

Toronto Mayor John Tory agrees. 

"Please do whatever you can … to let your mom know you love her," he said. 

The city reported a total of 7,114 cases on Friday, with 421 people in hospital and 104 in intensive care units due to COVID-19. Some 4,717 people have recovered.

With files from Kelda Yuen


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