“Throughout the past year, residents are staying positive. We’re always coming up with fun things for them to do,” Preston Park II Retirement Residence lifestyle director Karen Waldner said.
Waldner knew staying connected with friends, family and the community would be key to keep spirits high. Some residents had grandchildren using TikTok, so Waldner thought it would be fun to collaborate with the seniors and make their own account.
The account shows different everyday moments and of course includes a lot of dancing. While initially meant to be shared with family, some of the TikToks have been seen by thousands around the world.
93-year-old Dick Strayer, a retired University of Saskatchewan engineering professor, is one of the account’s stars. He’s always getting involved with different activities like aqua fit and jazzercise, so Waldner wasn’t surprised to see him interested in making videos.
In 2018, he was front and centre in a Facebook post of some of the seniors dancing, which garnered over 100,000 likes.
“I’ve been involved in quite a few and it is fun. It’s actually fun when other people make a fool out of themselves instead of me all the time,” Strayer said with a laugh.
“I guess if it entertains the girls, then I feel pretty good about it.”
Leonard Hart has also starred in some of the videos. It’s something the retired elementary school teacher enjoys sharing with people he has been unable to see.
“TikTok is a new vocabulary for me really,” the 87-year-old said.
“I haven’t done too many, but when I do it I try to do my best and I’m satisfied with it. I know that people all over the world are looking at it and saying, ‘this old fella is doing quite well.’”
The Saskatoon seniors are happy they’ve spread joy near and far during what’s been a crazy year.
“Lots of people don’t smile or don’t laugh and this just makes you feel good that you can do something good for other people to enjoy,” resident Brenda Schutz said.
“It seems to make people happy, so it’s good. I enjoy that,” Strayer said.
TikTok isn’t the only way everyone has been staying connected. The residence has tablets so the seniors can connect with loved ones.
“At my birthday last October we had the whole family and again at Christmas we zoomed. It’s just great,” Strayer said.
Another new device for the group has been the Amazon Alexa. As seen in some of the TikToks, many enjoy having conversations with her.
“I have Alexa in my room right now and I just love her. I think she’s pretty sweet,” Schutz said.
“I love waking up in the morning and asking her the temperature. I love music so I get her to play songs. It’s really great.”
It’s certainly been tough not being able to see people outside the residence in person, but the seniors remain optimistic.
“I know this pandemic has caused some concerns, but still at the same time we’ve got something to look forward to. The days are getting longer, it’s going to get warmer, and hopefully by the end of this year, it will all be over,” Hart said.