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Seniors’ Centre goes virtual to continue delivering services to seniors

March 26, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The Aurora Seniors’ Centre is not letting a facility closure keep them from delivering important services to the community.

Amid Aurora’s State of Emergency following the COVID-19 outbreak, staff at the Seniors’ Centre are doubling down on their Seniors’ Centre Without Walls service, an over-the-phone service intended to foster fellowship and reduce isolation felt by members of our community.

“Seniors’ Centre Without Walls is a telephone-based program where we can host people who can interact together on the phone and we’ll either do games, trivia and brain-stimulating activities – and we will do exercises and relaxation with them,” says Karie Papillon, Adult Program Coordinator for the Aurora Seniors’ Centre.

The Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program has been in place for nearly two years, but the importance of the service has only been underscored in this current crisis.

Speaking to The Auroran on St. Patrick’s Day last week, Ms. Papillon said they had a day on the phones built around all things Irish, but such was the demand on service, the telephone infrastructure they had in place at the time struggled to keep up with demand. In the days since, those problems have now been rectified and it is smooth sailing as they ramp up to meet the needs of the community.

“At this point, we knew our members, being the most vulnerable, that there would be loneliness, so we decided to expand the programming from three days a week to five days a week,” says Ms. Papillon. “After the announcement we would be closed until April 6, we had to make sure we would still be able to run the program. Today, our theme was just ‘Fun and Games’. I told some really bad jokes they all groaned at – I thought the jokes were hilarious, but they groan at me a lot! – and then we played a really silly game called ‘Would You Rather?’ because right now I think making people laugh is really important.”

The Question of the Day? If you could have the power, would you make unicorns real or would you make dragons real?

Posing the question to The Auroran, this writer thought that dragons might be the more practical option, an opinion shared by Ms. Papillon, but apparently those who called into the Seniors’ Centre Without Walls program were firmly Team Unicorn.

“I told them I could ride the dragon to work and not have to worry about commuting, which would be fantastic,” said Ms. Papillon with a laugh. “The idea yesterday was everyone is so keyed up and stressed right now, let’s make people laugh and let people be a bit silly. Our afternoon program was Stretch & Relax, where one of our fitness instructors is going to take them through some very simple chair exercises just to keep moving. A lot of them are used to coming into the Centre every two to three days and doing their fitness classes or doing tai chi. You want to keep them moving, and then we have a bit of guided relaxation at the end just to end people’s day with a really positive mindset before they go and turn the news back on.

“Thankfully most of our clients have families who bring them groceries and who are calling them. We have some calls yesterday from some people who either were self-isolating or were just getting back from somewhere and were told they needed to isolate themselves. They were very worried about getting their groceries and picking up their prescriptions. A few community members have come forward and we’re trying to connect those people together. The other thing they are worried about is if they are staying at home and just in front of the TV all day not getting their usual exercises in, what can they do to move, stretch and just keep going so when they come back to their fitness classes they haven’t lost any of the strides they have made?

“It is a very strong community on these calls now. They know each other’s voices. If Helen has been away for a few days and Helen comes back, they all want to know. ‘Have you been okay? How’s your husband?’ and so forth. Building that community is really important and I think we just encourage anyone who feels that need to have some fun, not watch the news for a half hour or 45 minutes to join us.”

Seniors Centre Without Walls programming changes each week.

Two calls will take place each weekday. On Wednesday, March 25, the 10.15 a.m. call will be dedicated to “Stretch & Relax” with the 3.15 p.m. call based around the “Fun & Games” theme. “Short Stories” kicks off the March 26 calls at 10.15 a.m., with the “Stretch and Relax” ending the afternoon at 3.15. Callers can pick up “Stretch and Relax” on March 27 at 10.15, with Fun & Games slated for 3.15 p.m.

“Just call in with a sense of humour because we have a lot of fun and laugh,” says Ms. Papillon. “You don’t have to participate, just have a willingness to try to participate. We have some people who just want to listen, and that’s fine, but be willing to say hello. We’re always looking for people to help us with program research right now. We’re trying to expand our programming and if anyone has a keen trivia mind and is able to shoot us some stories or fun trivia questions, we would really appreciate that.”

For more information on Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, call 905-727-3123 x3614 or email

By Brock Weir



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