Penticton seniors facing isolation; groups work to help

Seniors left lonely

The closure of the Penticton Seniors Drop-in Centre due to COVID-19 has left many elderly isolated and lonely in Penticton. 

"We're very concerned. The seniors centre exists for a lot of reasons, but one of its main reasons is to provide a place for seniors that is a safe and welcoming place for social engagement and prevention of isolation," said Mignonne Wood, centre president. 

"We know that lots of our membership just come for the social engagement, and it's gone now."

Wood said the centre's directors are discussing what to do, especially in light of the fact that many of the older seniors who use their facilities don't have access to technology. 

"A lot in their older years don't have an email address, they don't use technology daily, they are even more at risk (of isolation) I think," Wood said. 

They are working on a plan to organize phone calls to the seniors, and seeking the public's input as to whether they would be interested in volunteering to make those calls. 

"It would just be to phone and say 'How are you doing'? Some people have family and connections, but there are some people who don't have anybody and those are the ones we are concerned about. We have people who come in and spend all day at the puzzle table, so we worry what's happening to them? Where do they go now? What kind of connections do they have?" Wood said.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer caller can contact the Seniors Centre staff here.

"And if there are seniors out there who feel they would like to have someone touch base daily, they could also leave their name," Wood added.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, a senior himself at 74 years old, said the closure of the seniors centre was "unfortunate."

"I don't know what to tell the seniors with the the exception of staying safe, staying home, taking every precaution possible to make sure that virus doesn't get to them," he said. 

"Seniors have to be very careful. We are more vulnerable than any other age group. My mom is 93 and I hardly ever go to visit her because I don't want to give her anything ... I'm making sure she's going to stay healthy and doesn't suffer in any way."

Vassilaki had strong words for those in the community stocking up on goods at grocery stores and leaving none for the more vulnerable in the population. 

"All those people that are hoarding food stuff and paper goods and other things, I think it's irresponsible for the public to do that for profit," he said.

"To take advantage of such a situation in order to make money is just not right." 

Vassilaki said overall, he feels Penticton is "fairly safe" at this point.

"But then I'm not a doctor, so I can't say anything for certainty. But we should take precautions to make sure [the virus] doesn't get here." 

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