Seniors and Students Connecting
By Julie Ireton DECEMBER 2020
Rosemary MacKinnon has made a new friend during the pandemic and spends hours each month chatting with her on the phone. Decades separate these new pals by age, they’ve never met face to face, but they have no problem finding things to talk about.
This fall, some Carleton University sports teams have been matched up with isolated seniors like MacKinnon, and they socialize with them by phone.
Some young women on the university’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 practicing, but varsity competitions are on-hold right now, giving athletes much more spare time than usual.
Some teams decided to spend that extra time giving 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 school work 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 during these conversations, including politics.
Coulter says she looks forward to the end of COVID when they can meet each other 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 shares information about the clients so it’s not a “cold call”.
“They form friendships and look forward to the calls. They can all use a phone, so they don’t have to be techy with a computer for these chats,” said O’Brien. “The seniors are interested in that real connection, a voice at the end of the line.”