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For lonely seniors, connection is key this holiday season

HRM-based campaigns aim to bring joy through care packages, handwritten cards

2 min read
caption Visitors enjoy Wii bowling, a popular pastime at the Spencer House Seniors Centre in Halifax, on Thursday.
Marissa Birnie

Ellen Pottie says she’s one of the lucky ones.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first shut down much of Nova Scotia, it shut out Pottie from socializing at the Spencer House Seniors Centre in Halifax. It closed along with other community gathering spaces under the province’s public health measures.

But Pottie had family in the area, which isn’t the case for many seniors living in the province.

“The hardest part of the lockdown for me was not being able to come here,” she said.

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Centre director Allison Davis said the pandemic left seniors craving “community, connection and conversation.”

As the holiday season draws near, community groups are ramping up their efforts to connect with isolated seniors.

“I think for a lot of people, this time of year is a happy time of year,” said Katie Mahoney, co-founder of the Halifax-based charity We Are Young Association.

“But it’s also a very lonely and isolating time of year for a lot of people … especially our seniors,” she said.

The charity teamed up with stationery shop Halifax Paper Hearts for its annual card campaign, which aims to deliver 2,000 handwritten cards to seniors by Dec. 20.

“Having a holiday card is letting that senior know that although maybe they don’t have close family and friends by their side during the season, they do have someone … to let them know that they’re still connected,” Mahoney said.

Members of Spencer House received some of the cards last year, along with care packages sent by groups like Santa’s for Seniors.

“The generosity is really something to be a part of,” Davis said.

Davis said that as some seniors’ social groups get smaller, they lose out on the connection that holiday social gatherings provide.

This year, the centre is hosting a theatre troupe, holiday luncheons, and are performing carols as part of the Evergreen Festival. The Atlantic Jewish Council will serve a meal at the centre on Christmas Day for seniors that would otherwise spend the holiday alone.

“This is their place to connect with people. With friends, but also with the community,” Davis said.

Pottie said she’s glad to be back among friends at the centre. She spends her afternoons participating in activities like Wii bowling, one of the more popular pastimes among members.

“It’s a really good place to be and everybody gets along,” she said.

“I’m just grateful that we have this.”

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