Contact with seniors continues in days of isolation

Throughout Term 2 at Selwyn House, Jennifer Nantel’s Grade 9 English class has been getting together with seniors at Westmount’s Contactivity Centre, to maintain lines of communication with older people and get to know them.
Contactivity Centre is a 48-year-old non-profit community organization funded by Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada,that helps seniors maintain their independence and remain active in their community. Their 800 members from the Westmount area take part in activities such as discussion groups, dance and exercise classes, and arts and crafts.
Each student was paired up with a Contactivity member. Before the recent Coronavirus pandemic, the students would meet with them weekly in the seniors’ homes. “They spent about an hour with them, chatting, playing card games, or helping with tech stuff, such as ordering groceries online,” Ms. Nantel explains.
But, with the onset of the pandemic and everyone going into isolation, the whole visitation project seemed to be in jeopardy. That’s when Contactivity organizer Benita Goldin (mother of David Layman, Gr. 11) suggested the visits could continue by phone.  
“Seniors over 70 years old are expected to stay home during this virus pandemic,” Ms. Goldin reminds the students. “By calling them, you relieve the isolation they feel.”
If the older person has access to technology, the students help them set up a video-conference call. In addition to offering tech help, the students talk to them about their families, pets, what they may be reading, and their personal history. The students keep a journal of their phone visits and the things they talk about.
Basically, the students are there to “be a listening ear,” says Ms. Nantel.