COVID-19: Linking Generations remains connected

Grade 9 Lakeland Ridge student, Teagan Kadatz and Linking Generations participant made more than 100 origami butterflies for local seniors at Bedford Village, Silver Birch Lodge, Silver Birch Manor, Silver Birch Haven, Summerwood Seniors Residence, Clover Bar Lodge, Sherwood Care, Country Cottage, and Capital Care Strathcona. They were delivered throughout the month of April and included a note which read; ""If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies." Kadatz hopes the gesture showed seniors they are loved while they're in isolation during COVID-19. Photo Supplied jpg, SP

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While the way Linking Generation participants are staying connected has changed because of COVID-19, the need for building relationships with seniors has remained the same.

With schools shut down and major access restrictions in place for seniors and long term care facilities, Linking Generations had to adapt its program to keep seniors and local youth connected during the pandemic. Over the past six weeks, a letter-writing program was launched, where students wrote weekly to their linked senior and seniors responding, and those were delivered to the various seniors facilities by the program coordinators. As of May 22, more than 250 letters were shared back and forth. Some also kept in touch with Skype or Zoom calls.

One Lakeland Ridge student, Teagan Kadatz took it a step further. After learning how to make origami butterflies previously in school, she wanted to share a moment of joy with seniors and made more than 100 to be delivered to Bedford Village, Silver Birch Lodge, Silver Birch Manor, Silver Birch Haven, Summerwood Seniors Residence, Clover Bar Lodge, Sherwood Care, Country Cottage, and Capital Care Strathcona.

“I decided it would make them happy and brighten their day and since I had free time anyway, I could make a whole bunch for them,” the Grade 9 student said, adding it took her about a week to make all of the butterflies.

Along with the origami gifts, one quote was included; “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.”

“I think it really represents the pandemic and what we’re all going through because we’re all going through a lot of changes,” Kadatz said. “Right now, they probably feel lonely and bored, so I wanted them to feel loved and to know that we care and that we’re thinking about them and we all miss them.”

Linking Generation seniors across Strathcona County received more than 100 origami butterflies in April to remind them that they’re not alone. Photo Supplied jpg, SP

Having been involved in the Linking Generations for the past two years and paired with Helen Gust from Silver Birch, Kadatz said she enjoys connecting with seniors and building relationships through various activities such as a visit to a garden centre, baking, crafts, and games. The student has even put muffin and cookie recipes that she’s learned from Gust to good use at home during the pandemic.

“She super kind and it’s just fun to spend time with her. There’s just so much that she can teach me. I’ve learned a lot about when she was growing up and what it was like when she was going to school. She’s also taught me a bunch of recipes and showed me things she used to cook,” Kadatz said. “She’s very loving and we have a very good relationship.”

She received a photo of her own senior buddy holding the butterfly.

“That made me feel happy that they liked them and it made their days better,” the student recalled. “Another senior called me to thank me, which made me really happy to make them happy.”

“It’s kind of sad and disappointing that we don’t get to continue the year and finish off with them, but I’ll likely visit Helen once this is all over because we still have a good relationship and I’d still like to see her even when the program is over,” Kadatz added.

Teagan Kadatz’s linked senior, Helen Gust at Silver Birch, was delighted to not only receive letters from her during April, but as well as an origami butterfly and a note which read; “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.” The pair hope to reconnect in person after the pandemic. Photo Supplied jpg, SP

It’s initiatives like this which help lessens isolation for seniors, noted Linking Generations executive director, Debbie Sinclair.

“The past two months have reinforced how critical it is that our community seniors be connected to family and to friends. With severe visiting restrictions placed at all senior facilities, many seniors have had little or no contact with the outside world,” noted Sinclair.

“The relationships our Linking Generations students and seniors build throughout the year are genuine and meaningful. Teagan demonstrated her commitment to our program and reinforced to all of how important it is to reach out and share from our hearts.”

The program saw a jump in interest this past school year with 349 participants. Highlights of the year included playing The Price Is Right, which involved collecting items for the food bank and discussing prices of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and current-day, as well as a Christmas visit to Greenland Garden Centre, which saw seniors sharing holiday traditions with the youth.

Preparations have already begun on the 2020-21 program restart.

“Although no-one can determine at this time what September will bring, Linking Generations will have its program planned and ready to go. Linking Generations also offers a very successful Volunteer Grandparent Program which will resume once students are back in classrooms. Hopefully, that will be in the near future,” noted Sinclair.

lmorey@postmedia.com

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