Written by: Stephanie Wickens (McMaster Student of Gerontology and Hamilton Aging in Community Member)
Since the beginning of March, we have all experienced a major shift in the ways in which we are able to engage with loved ones and others in our community. This upheaval and lack of human connection have been a source of stress, confusion and sadness for many. An increase in social isolation due to the pandemic has been especially difficult for seniors living in long-term care and assisted living homes. In an effort to keep residents protected from the coronavirus, visiting restrictions were put in place leaving seniors in care unable to connect in person with friends, family and caregivers who would normally be able to visit.
Beginning in May 2020, Hamilton Aging in Community has partnered with student volunteers from McMaster’s Student Open Circles to create hand-made art, letters and cards for seniors living in long-term care and assisted living homes in the Hamilton community. In an effort to combat social isolation, volunteers have been creating a wide variety of artistic contributions to be distributed among residents and staff in these homes. The images and messages enclosed instill a sense of hope and let the recipients know that their community loves and supports them.
This initiative has proven to be mutually beneficial to all those involved. Student volunteers are using their compassion and creativity to connect in a meaningful way with seniors in their community. This has allowed them to develop a deeper sense of empathy and learn new ways of communication. The seniors in care look forward to viewing the art, reading the letters and cards and displaying the volunteer contributions around their homes. And the staff and caregivers are appreciative of the messages of hope and support.
It continues to be a difficult time for all of us. Although visiting restrictions for seniors in care are not quite as rigid as they were a month or two ago, residents continue to be vulnerable to social isolation as a result of the pandemic. In response, Art and Letters for Seniors will continue to create and distribute contributions to long term care and assisted living residences to show them community care and support.
If you are interested in taking part in this initiative, please contact Stephanie Wickens: [email protected] To learn more about Student Open Circles, click here.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia