CALGARY -- The pandemic is a scary and uncertain time for many around the world, but possibly more so for seniors living in care facilities, most of whom are no strangers to the concept of social isolation.

Doors to their buildings are locked and in many cases, no family members are being allowed in to visit.

“It's awful as to what’s happening with the pandemic and we’re very sorry to hear about sites in the city that are affected. We’re fortunate at the moment not to have that issue,” said Al Boileau, Journey Club’s executive director.

In the southeast Calgary community of Mahogany, Westman Village’s Journey Club staff are being creative finding innovative ways to keep residents active but safely social during these uncertain times.

Residents aren’t allowed to gather in one space for exercise classes, so chairs have been placed in the hallway outside each suite so seniors can stand or sit and get a workout.

Phyllis Johnston is the Journey Club’s first resident who moved in September 2018 and participates in the hallway exercise classes.

“Its almost nicer than having it in the big room because it gives us a little bit of leeway to laugh at each other,” said Johnston.  “When we’re in a big group there’s no time to laugh because you are going and this way it’s more personal maybe.”

The Journey Club

A daily newsletter is delivered to everyone with different activities like crosswords, sudoku puzzles and word-search games along with a daily chronicle of what happened that day in history.

An armchair travel program encourages residents to write a short article about a place they travelled to and they also receive information about different destinations.

And similar to what’s being seen in several European cities during the pandemic, the Journey Club is hosting courtyard sing-a-longs where residents gather on their individual patios to collectively sing together, creating a courtyard community choir.

They're making such sweet music together that Boileau has devised a few more melodious pursuits.

“We’ll be bringing a band in once a week to perform in our courtyard," he said. "They can’t come into the building, but they can access the courtyard from the back and perform for our residents."

“So there’s really a lot happening, despite the social isolation.”

Staff are also offering virtual bingo and some nights, a mobile drink cart visits each suite for a happy hour on wheels.

“We do happy hour three days a week where we have this cool little cart that we wheel down alcoholic and non alcoholic cocktails for residents,” said Boileau.  “Today is margarita day, so it will be a good time for sure -  maybe we’ll get a conga line going or something.”

Staff say their focus is always on the residents of the Journey Club. They continue to aggressively clean the facility to keep the virus in check. But they also want to make sure everyone is able to have fun in a time of social isolation.