Local groups join forces to ease social isolation for elders at Harbourview Lodge

By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
April 29 2020

SHEET HARBOUR – The 32 elders at Harbourview Lodge Continuing Care in Sheet Harbour have been denied visitors since mid-March and are missing their loved ones – as are long-term care residents throughout the province. Two local organizations – the Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce and Lily’s Hill recreation group – are working hard to make them feel more connected to loved ones and the community.

The chamber’s new ad hoc committee – with members Ed Empringham, Candace Mackean, Meryl Atkinson and Becky Atkinson -- suggested local children could create cards, posters, artwork and messages for the residents at the lodge to help ease their sense of isolation. Simultaneously, Jody Taker, events coordinator for Lily’s Hill, an organization that operates a winter skating rink and coasting hill, looked to its volunteers to bring hope and joy to the elders. Candace Mackean, a volunteer with both the chamber and Lily’s Hill, decided to bring the two groups together.

The concept grew and the chamber, Harbourview Lodge and Lily’s Hill partnered to ensure the project got off the ground.

“It began with a slow start as it (the request) was sent out at around the same time as homeschooling began and it became one more thing for people to do,” explains Taker in an email interview with The Journal. “It was shared with one of the teachers, Mrs. Glawson, who shared it with her class and we are starting to see more come in.”

The committee wanted to avoid mailing items directly to the facility for fear of spreading the virus. “We decided that in keeping with the safety of the residents we would do something through Facebook and to reach more people,” she said. Harbour View Lodge recreation staff agreed to print pictures posted to Facebook to share with the residents.

“While seeing things on the screen is nice it is not the same as holding a paper copy in your hands.” The development of a slide show of all the creations and messages will be “shown on iPads/tablets for the residents once enough items are shared,” says Taker. The intent is to show it in the common room of the lodge once things get back to normal.

Taker encourages uploading anything artistic to the Lily’s Hill Facebook page so it can be shared with the elders at the lodge. “We are looking for a wide range of things and it is a great opportunity to get creative and share and show your love through any medium or art form you choose.” The age suggestions have been dropped and all ages are invited to participate.

Taker speaks to the advantage of the widespread use of social media. “All items are posted on the Lily’s Hill Facebook page for everyone to enjoy. We will continue to collect online posters as we all continue to ‘Stay the Blazes Home’,” she said.

Taker is also pursuing ideas to keep the broader community connected during the pandemic. “I personally have put a few things out there to try and get people involved in Facebook groups: ‘Backyard Nature Art Challenge’ and ‘Spread Love! Hearts are found everywhere!’ It is a tough time; people are trying their best to keep themselves positive and moving forward in this sad reality we are living in.”