As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the globe, many elderly people are finding themselves more isolated than ever before.
Many nursing homes and assisted living communities are shutting their doors to the outside world in an effort to promote social distancing, as health experts warn that people 65 and older are more likely to have critical symptoms or die from the virus. At many facilities, residents are no longer allowed to congregate in groups, leave the building or have visitors of any kind, including family.
To combat the sadness this can cause and keep residents’ spirits high, one nursing home in the U.K. has started a campaign that allows people around the world to “adopt” their residents.
The “Adopt a Grandparent” campaign, as it’s being called, is the brainchild of CHD Living, a nursing home company with 13 locations near London. They’re inviting English-speakers from across the world to apply online to become virtual volunteers, engaging with their assigned “grandparents” through regular video calls — building companionship and keeping them mentally stimulated.
Pairings between volunteers and residents are made based on mutual interests.
The company ran a similar version of the campaign last year, where people from the community were asked to come in and spend time with residents in person — but they knew this year would have to be different with the need for safe social distancing.
“The nature of care means that we’re looking after some of the most vulnerable members of society at the moment,” Shaleeza Hasham, Head of Hospitality, Communications & Commissioning at CHD said in a press release. “We are however keen to keep spirits in the homes high and so have been thinking of ways that we can continue to enrich the lives of our residents whilst providing them with stimulation and companionship.”
“It made sense at this time to digitize the Adopt a Grandparent campaign and to recruit further volunteers who might like to help keep our residents company over the coming weeks,” Hasham continued.
Each home will be receiving a Facebook Portal TV to facilitate these virtual hangouts, and employees will be on hand to help residents use the technology.
They are also welcoming drawings, letters and poetry from the public to share with residents, and are hoping children especially will enjoy contributing while schools are closed.
People interested in volunteering can apply via a form on the CHD website.
According to CHD, they have already seen a spike in interested applicants throughout the month of March — with 36 new sign-ups — but they are always looking for more, as residents are thrilled to hear people are willing to donate their time.
Says Hasham, “It will be a wonderful distraction for everyone involved.”
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