Seniors and students connect

Charlotte Elliott, student and athlete, talks on the phone to a local older adult.
Photo: Seamus Donahue

By Julie Ireton

Rosemary MacKinnon has made a new friend during the pandemic and spends hours each month chatting with her on the phone. Decades separate the ages of these new pals and they’ve never met face to face, but they have no problem finding things to talk about.

This fall, some Carleton University sports teams matched up with isolated seniors like MacKinnon and socialize with them by phone. Players on the women’s rugby team are making calls to residents of the Glebe Centre and members of Abbotsford House seniors centre.

“With COVID, I don’t get out to socialize much so it’s really nice to talk to someone about what they’re doing,” said MacKinnon. “Getting to know someone young brings more to our lives.”

University teams are still training and practising, but varsity competitions are on hold right now, giving athletes much more spare time than usual. Some teams decided to use that extra time to give back to the community.

“It’s really cool to make connections outside the school and it gives an opportunity for the seniors to keep in touch, keep busy, especially with COVID, because they aren’t able to do other activities,” said Zoe Coulter, a third-year Carleton student and varsity rugby player.

Coulter, who is studying anthropology and sign language, is also hoping to put her signing skills to practice with other seniors in the community.

“It’s great practice for me,” said Coulter. “As a student, it’s nice to have a break and not think about any schoolwork and just listen to them. It makes everyone feel good on both sides.”

Sometimes the phone calls last an hour or two, according to Coulter. They talk about anything and everything, including politics.

Coulter says she looks forward to the end of COVID when they can meet in person and maybe set up a “paint evening or story night.”

Kirsten O’Brien, program facilitator at Abbotsford House, makes the match between students and seniors, and she shares information about the clients with the students in advance so it’s not a “cold call.”

“They (the seniors) form friendships and look forward to the calls,” said O’Brien. “They can all use a phone, so they don’t have to be techy with a computer for these chats. The seniors are interested in that real connection, a voice at the end of the line.”

Seniors looking to be connected to a Carleton student should call Kirsten O’Brien at Abbotsford House, 613-230-5730 ext. 322,

Abbotsford is your Seniors Active Living Centre. We are the community programs and services of The Glebe Centre Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit, organization which includes a 254 bed long term care home.  Find out more about our services by telephoning 613-230-5730 or by checking out all of The Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website

Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.

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