Skip to main content

Volunteers make world of difference for Calgary’s senior ER patients


Spending day and night in a hospital emergency room is often a difficult experience for senior citizens in need of care, but a group of enthusiastic volunteers are hoping to bring just a little extra joy.

These volunteers make up the SUPER (Seniors Support in the ER) program at Calgary’s South Health Campus.

Pearl, an ER patient, says it’s the volunteers that have kept her going through difficult moments over the past few days.

“The volunteers are so excellent. They’re always cheerful and offer to get whatever I need,” she said.

“I think it gives me an extra boost for the day. It’s been so busy here, but you have to be strong. All the tests are thorough, but the staff and volunteers get me through.”

Volunteers like Farhana Toompa are new to the SUPER program.

She has completed just two days of volunteering, but the former medical physician from Bangladesh has found the entire experience to be overwhelmingly rewarding.

“I came here to Canada because of my son who has special needs, so it’s been a struggle from the beginning, but I have met so many wonderful people and that’s why I wanted to give back,” she said.

“The reward we get can’t be expressed, it’s just all you feel in your hear. Volunteers are normal people who have helped me out through my journey and they’ve inspired me a lot, and when I’m in their shoes I feel that the volunteers make a great influence in everyone’s life.”

Others like Hooria Ashfaq volunteered more than 150 hours over the past year, greeting patients, providing comfort and conversation to help make a senior’s stay better.

She says simple tasks like playing cards or providing blankets or water have gone a long way in forming strong relationships.

“A lot of seniors just really like the company. Sometimes they don't want to talk and they just want someone to sit with and even that's really great just to be there for them,” she said.

“This is a relatively new program that had to be put aside during COVID, but when I started as a volunteer I could see how important it was to be a helping hand for nurses and help in any way. I have cards, puzzles, toothbrushes and combs, books and anything they need.”

The 20-year-old originally from the United Arab Emirates is completing her undergrad in chemistry at the University of Calgary and dreams of one day becoming a medical doctor.

Ashfaq also speaks both Hindi and Urdu, which has been an asset in the emergency room when some patients may have foreign language barriers with other medical staff.

"I'm really a people's person and I absolutely just love helping and working with people, so this really helps me build on my communication,” she said.

The SUPER program is continuing to accept volunteers at the South Health Campus and opportunities can be applied for online. Top Stories

Stay Connected