Seniors' Centre Without Walls helping people feel less isolated

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With seniors’ centres closed and social gatherings banned, a new program has launched to help people feel less isolated and disconnected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bruce Grey Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, an initiative of the United Way of Bruce Grey and its partners, is a telephone-conferencing program that offers free group activities, presentations and discussions, all geared towards seniors and adults with disabilities.

“It’s a way for them to stay connected and hear things of interest and learn about things,” Misty Schonauer, small programs co-ordinator at the local United Way, said Tuesday.

“This is a way that they can still participate in things. Some are done by Zoom and, either way, people can still phone in and listen and participate, but they’re generally done by phone-in.”

The United Way launched the initiative as a pilot project in December, with funds from a micro-grant.

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It received New Horizons for Seniors Program funding to continue the project beyond April 1.

Schonauer said participation in the calls has varied, with some sessions attracting a few area seniors and others connecting more than a dozen participants.

Since the pandemic took hold in Ontario, some seniors’ centres have remained closed, while others have been able to open for short periods with gathering and social distancing restrictions in place.

However, all gatherings and organized events, except with members of the same household or a person outside of the household who lives alone, have been prohibited since April 1 due to a provincial shutdown. Those rules will remain in place under a provincial stay-at-home order until at least May 19.

The United Way says the stay-at-home order is the perfect time for people to give the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program a try.

It offers an “inclusive, safe, inviting space to listen, learn and be heard,” the organization says.

The events calendar for May includes phone-in trivia, seated fitness sessions, inspirational stories, phone chats and discussions or presentations on topics such as memory and aging, financial literacy, getting in touch with intuitive abilities and the United Way’s utility assistance program.

Sessions are scheduled Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 1:45 p.m.

In May, the seated fitness sessions with Carolyn Shannon are set for Mondays and Fridays from 2 to 3 p.m.

To register for the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program, contact Misty at 519-376-1560 or misty@unitedwaybg.com or Sharon Colter at dshcolter@eastlink.ca.

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