They say it takes a village to raise a child. But here at Canterbury Foundation, we know it also takes a community to protect, support and value its seniors. Canterbury Foundation has worked hard to protect our residents through this crisis but now more than ever, Canterbury needs to lean on our community to help us continue providing the best life enrichment we can, for the remainder of this unprecedented time.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canterbury staff have worked diligently to take early and aggressive measures to protect the safety and health of all seniors who call Canterbury home. From a health care perspective this has meant isolating ourselves.

"We have an amazing team at Canterbury Court and we’re all working together with AHS, residents and families to see each other through this crisis," says Canterbury Executive Director, Wendy King. "From early in the process, our preparedness has been key. Our team has met every day to adjust our response. As soon as COVID became a reality in Alberta, we became vigilant with safety protocols for staff and residents, locking down access from visitors and putting all precautions in place." 

While these changes were necessary, and have been successful in preventing COVID from entering our walls, the mental and emotional health of our residents is important too. We have taken several steps to ensure our seniors remain connected to you - our community.  And the community has responded in kind, lifting the spirits of our seniors in numerous ways.

On April 8, a delivery of 300 greeting cards were handed out to seniors, handmade by three Edmonton teens, with the help of their mom and crafter Cyndi Lizee.

"Teens don’t always think about how things affect others, and I think in these times they need to understand that everyone is affected by the changes to the world going on around them," says Cyndi. "We had many hours of laughter and enjoyed each other’s company as we crafted and created.” 

“Residents were very grateful that someone from the community was writing them, sending some wonderful and powerful messages,” says Canterbury Resident Experience Manager, Mbalia Kamara.

18-year-old Katie, 16-year-old Becca and 15-year-old Jessica were thrilled by the reaction. “When I heard that people really appreciated them, and that many hearts were touched because of what we did that made me feel really proud of what we accomplished,”  said Jessica.

Another lifeline to family and friends has come with the introduction of Canterbury’s new video call program. Residents and their families can book appointments and staff assist in setting up video chats on tablets with loved ones.

"It is vital for residents to feel like they are not forgotten and I think it’s important for them to have conversations over the phone with their loved ones, but I think it makes even more of an impact when they can see the face of their family members," says Mbalia Kamara.

It’s a program that brought smiles to the face of Canterbury resident Mary Palmer. On April 15, Palmer celebrated as her great-granddaughter was welcomed into the world. The little one’s arrival came just five days after Mary rang in her 100th birthday. Palmer’s granddaughter, Caitlin Sprokkreeff, was able to introduce the little one over a video call. 

"Nan’s not always the easiest when it comes to talking online, but she was beyond excited," Sprokkreeff said, announcing they were naming the baby ‘Palmer’ in Mary’s honour. It’s been small but impactful moments like these that have shaped these past weeks in isolation for Canterbury residents.

“It has been quite a shift in terms of how we’re leading programming but our team has been very creative in how we’re engaging the residents,” says Kamara. “We’re seeing a lot of one-on-one interactions with residents especially when it comes to coaching them on using computers. This has been a great opportunity for us to assist them in exploring Google or checking out virtual tours.” 

Whether it’s a special birthday cake made by Executive Chef Ajay Lala and his dietary team, or a chance for a retired Assistant Superintendent to read a children’s book to a kindergarten class over Google classroom, Canterbury is doing everything it can to keep spirits lifted and ensure residents are cared for and able to participate in a meaningful way with community during this difficult time.

"We are still engaging with residents as much as possible. Community members have gone above and beyond too, from the school across the street decorating the bushes for Easter, to grandchildren of residents sending postcards or coming to talk to their loved one through the window," says Wendy King. "Through the bad of this crisis, we see a lot of beauty and good too. There’s a coming together, 24/7 to work with each other and take care of one another."

Executing more and more programming to keep our seniors connected in a safe yet fulfilling way, has come with unforeseen costs in increased staffing, time, equipment and support. We believe these additional measures and programs are critical and we wish to keep being innovative in providing more opportunities for family and community to come together safely.

As a not-for-profit, Canterbury is now looking to the community for support to continue keeping seniors safe, healthy and connected during the pandemic. We hope you will stand with us and help us support our valuable yet vulnerable seniors.

To lend a helping hand please click here to support programming for our most vulnerable amid COVID-19.

We can get through this together as a community.