Seniors use landlines as lifelines to family and friends

By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
April 1 2020

EASTERN SHORE – Three seniors living 35 kilometres apart on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore share their strategies for staying connected to family and friends with The Journal this week. The landline telephone is the tool helping many seniors stay connected.

A retired former employee of Nova Scotia Power, Auriel Day, says he is staying close to home in Sheet Harbour and only going out as necessary. “I talk to my daughter and son on the phone and I speak with other friends and family,” he says. Although Day continues to drive, he does not venture out often, heeding the warnings of the N.S. government.

“I get my news and updates from the television and in my opinion, it is good coverage. I am not scared but I am concerned as I have asthma.” Day explains how he practices physical distancing and goes for groceries about every five days. “I avoid going out as much as I can. I am keeping busy at home with small tasks and right now I’m touching up my trim.”

In Tangier, long-time resident Bernice Logan no longer drives and accepts support from friends who live nearby. Logan uses her landline phone to communicate, to maintain a social connection, and to let others know when she needs a lift to the grocery store.

“I’m 88 years old and appreciate help from good friends and neighbours to help me maintain my independence. I prepare my own meals and I continue to bake bread and cakes,” says Logan. “However, I live in the dark ages and I do not have a computer. I get my news from papers and television. I have never before seen anything like this (pandemic). It’s unfortunate what is happening all over the world but in Canada we have a good health care system and I follow the rules.”

Farther east on the Shore, Bonnie MacDonald of Harrigan Cove makes her trip to the grocery store and gas station one day a week. MacDonald says she has no handheld device, only her landline telephone, and she chats with “anybody who will talk to me.”

A retired senior in her mid 70s, MacDonald misses volunteering at Harbourview Lodge Continuing Care facility. “It’s affecting my spirits a little as I looked after the Sunshine Cart since 2004 and volunteered at the Adult Day Clinic at the hospital since 2014 and I miss it. Everyone is in the same situation.”

MacDonald agrees she has not, in her lifetime, experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic and has nothing to compare the situation to. “This is happening all over the world and is taking a lot of people. I am not afraid…it will get worse before it gets better…but we are all in this together.” MacDonald expressed frustration at adults who are not respecting the government’s rules about physical distancing and self-isolation when applicable. “I don’t know what they are thinking.”

Day compares the COVID-19 pandemic to the late 1940s when diphtheria hit. His 12-year-old cousin died from the disease and children were being inoculated at school. “When I got back from lunch all the little children were crying and I decided that’s enough for me and I was outta there. I was almost home. I ran but they outran me.” Day says they carried him back and gave him the needle.

“I’m thankful for that now.”