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New Calgary program seeks volunteers to visit with local seniors

A young man chats with a senior in a nursing home. (Getty Images) A young man chats with a senior in a nursing home. (Getty Images)

A Calgary group is looking for volunteers to spend time with local seniors through its Complementary Companionship Program.

The program, from Senior Care 360, connects students with seniors with the hope of providing a socially-stimulating environment to improve their quality of life.

All volunteers have to do when they visit them is chat, or possibly play board games, listen to music or read books together.

A team of students from the University of Calgary pitched the Complementary Companionship Programthrough the university's Innovation 4 Health Program, where 10 teams presented various health care ideas before the Complementary Companionship Program was determined the winning one.

"In the beginning it was like 'oh, it's a fun extracurricular type of project,'" said team member Shiza Faisal, who is going into her third year of biological science. "But as time went on, this (turned into) a tangible thing and after we won the award we could actually go somewhere with this."

"It's not a silly idea anymore, it's a platform, it's up, it's running, it's there."

Shaiza Faisal and Huda Wazier are University of Calgary students who are part of a new Complementary Companionship Program connecting student volunteers with seniors.

Before their Innovation 4 Health Program presentation, the team interviewed a number of seniors and learned the majority of them welcome the opportunity to sit down and talk to someone younger.

"It's kind of exciting to be the founders," said Faisal. "The first people that are working on it and it's like your kid, you want to see it grow, you want to see it flourish and I think I'm probably going to commit more time and be more active in this endeavor."

The team is now working on developing an app to make it easier to connect student volunteers with seniors.

Senior Care 360 CEO and Medical Director Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi says many seniors programs cost upward of $70 an hour for a health care professional or companion to make a house call.

The Complementary Companionship Program, however, has an initial $20 administrative fee and then student visits are free.

"The hope is that with the program we send students in pairs to seniors for an hour or two conversation," said Zaidi. "This could be an every week thing with them and the same senior, or they can just be one off."

Volunteer Huda Wazir is going into her second year at the university studying psychology and says she wants to make a difference.

"Building a stronger community essentially and just build more connections with youth and seniors," said Wazir. "I know, especially with COVID, it's been really hard for different generations to connect with each other, and so I think this would be a great opportunity for both age groups to come together."

To learn more about the program and how to sign up you can visit the Learn more about the program and how to sign up you can visit the Senior Care 360 website. Top Stories

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