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Whitby, Ont., hotline keeping seniors connected during coronavirus pandemic

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Whitby hotline keeping seniors connected during pandemic
WATCH: For weeks, many seniors have been forced to stay in their homes with little to no contact with the outside world. The Town of Whitby has been trying to keep those in the community connected. – May 11, 2020

For weeks, many seniors have been forced to stay in their homes with little to no contact with the outside world.

The Town of Whitby has been trying to keep those in the community connected during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We started right away making calls to people,” said Kim Evans, with the Whitby Seniors’ Activity Centre, which has been closed for almost two months because of the pandemic.

Evans is on the phone most of the day. She says she makes about 100 calls a week, checking in on the seniors who used to come to the facility.

“The seniors’ centre is like their second home. They come here to do a ton of activities, like cards, bingo, they have exercise classes. Because we can’t do that, we have offered them the seniors’ connection line where they can have a friendly voice to connect with,” said Evans.

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Sharon Johnston is 73-years-old and has remained at home since the pandemic began.

She says the hotline, which also connects seniors to services, has been invaluable.

“I live alone; I’ve been a widow for 23 years. I keep myself busy but (the centre provides) something on a regular basis on a set day for just that one hour gives me something really to look forward to,” said Johnston, who is a program participant.

Before its closure, the centre saw around 500 seniors daily. After making over 800 calls in the first few weeks, the town expanded the hotline and its Without Walls program, which allows homebound seniors to connect with others over the phone, to all seniors who live in Whitby.

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“Seniors were asking us, ‘This was a great call. Do you think you could call me back next week?'” said Sharon Meredith, Whitby’s recreation senior manager.

Evans, who has been working at the centre for six years, has been speaking to one woman who hasn’t been able to leave her home because of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in her building.

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“I know that might be the only contact they get in that day. It’s really meant a lot to her that we’re staying in touch,” said Evans.

In the meantime, the town plans to keep these services going until the seniors’ activity centre is able to reopen.

You can reach the hotline by calling 905-668-1424 and leaving your name and number. Someone will give you a call back.

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