CALGARY -- A southern Alberta recreation therapist had to get a little creative to keep her senior clients active and engaged during COVID-19.

Brandee Elliott said she was worried about her home care clients when the pandemic forced the closure of seniors' day programs.

Elliott knows this as a challenging time for all Albertans and people in the rest of the world, but for seniors, especially in rural Alberta, she’s seeing more isolation.

"We’re concerned about a decrease in mood over time," said Elliott. "Mental health concerns, depression in our senior population, so we really wanted to be proactive and get started right away in helping maintain and improve their mood."

Seniors adult day programs were closed March 16 and it took Elliott just four days to come up with a solution to keep her clients social in a time of isolation.

She’s developed a virtual program called Go the Distance to connect seniors through phone and internet through Zoom.

"Some examples include trivia, name that tune, which is really fun, reminisce programs," said Elliott. "A lot of different cognitive games, which really get them thinking and their brains stimulated."

Rennie Lutz lives in Didsbury and is retired. He would regularly take part in the day programs offered by Alberta Health Services therapists.

"Mentally you deteriorate fast if you’re not involved and you’re not active, especially if you’re by yourself," said Lutz.

Lutz typically took part in cooking classes and swimming in the adult day programs and now his favourite activity with Go the Distance is trivia.

"It’s the highlight of my day on Tuesdays," said Lutz. "I was doing two days a week but there’s a lot of people wanting in so I gave up a day so other people could have it too but the big thing is you feel connected."

Elliott deals with 81 clients in and around Didsbury, Strathmore and Airdrie. She said only about 20 per cent of them are on the zoom calls, the rest connect by phone.

“They’re just so excited to see one another and it makes it all worth it," she said.

Go the Distance has spread to the Edmonton and Calgary zones and right now 48 recreation therapists and program facilitators across the province are in training to learn Elliott’s techniques. She started with just three programs and is now up to 16.

She said she knows her team is having a positive impact on the lives of Alberta seniors.