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The Elden goes digital as pandemic concerns close the doors

'Spirits are up, morale is very much up,' says Elden of Bradford official

The Elden of Bradford retirement residence has now closed its doors to all visitors, following health directives put in place to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.

It means rethinking activities at the residence and a new approach, especially for Activities Director Chad Axelrod.

Sales and Marketing Manager Jaime Robertson explained that Axelrod normally schedules “200 to 300 activities per month,” well in advance.

“He’s basically had to start from scratch,” she said now that outside visits and programs have been scrapped. Instead, “he’s gone digital.”

There’s a daily hotline that residents can call just to chat or to get updates. There are tutorials on how to use the digital resources and programs available, and all kinds of online activity.

There’s even a new Elden YouTube channel being set up, that will be reaching out to the community next week, asking for short video submissions.

The Elden is also putting together booklets for residents, filled with trivia questions, jokes, photos and funny tweets, because “we recognize not everybody is tech-savvy,” Robertson said.

Staff are doing everything possible to help keep spirits high and ensure that residents stay connected as well as safe.

Residents are encouraged to fill out shopping lists for any needed or wanted items, that will be picked up by staff and delivered to their door.

Earlier this week, Axelrod donned a St. Patrick’s Day hat and, accompanied by staff, volunteers and a horn that mimicked an ice cream truck, went door-to-door handing out ice cream. And there are some special surprises planned for next week.

“Spirits are up, morale is very much up,” Robertson said, as residents crack jokes and share their experiences.

And, she said, "As terrifying as this can be for the world, this is something to talk about.”

Residents "have talked about how, in times of crisis, people band together. How you are grateful for what you have – a safe place to live, three hot meals a day, people to talk to,” she said.

They have also been finding ways to entertain themselves. “I’ve seen a lot of knitting needles come out in the last week!”

It is reassuring to both residents and their families that The Elden is well-prepared for the emergency.

“More than anybody, we have to take this seriously,” Robertson said. While COVID-19 is something new – “uncharted waters” – the principles of infection control are well-established, and being put in practice, she said.

As for Robertson herself, she has been getting “a ton of calls” from seniors still interested in moving in.

With the building closed to visitors, she has been providing virtual tours instead – sending video images of the facility, and the rooms available, to interested callers.

“Next week I’ve got a Skype call.” She'll be conversing live as she walks through The Elden and highlights the amenities.

A limited number of move-ins are planned in the coming weeks – but only after in-depth screening, and sanitizing of all surfaces.

“We are taking those precautions. We’re taking things very seriously,” said Robertson, while still ensuring that residents have the supports, the supplies and the activities they need to keep engaged.

She especially wanted to thank The Body Shop at Upper Canada Mall for thinking of residents at this time. The Body Shop dropped off a donation of “bags and bags” of gentle hand soap to facilitate the frequent hand-washing recommended during the pandemic “which we thought was so nice,” Robertson said.

The hand soap, all individually-wrapped, will be delivered to residents, but only after a 'quarantine' period has elapsed. The Elden is aware of the latest research which suggests the novel coronavirus can survive on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and on plastic or steel for three to four days. 

"We're taking those precautions," Robertson said. 

She summed up, that there is good news, despite the current situation. “We have been keeping spirits up, bringing lots of joy to our residents and in general keeping cool. Our recreation department has really stepped up to implement a bunch of new ways to keep people connected, engaged - and laughing.”





Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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