Signage on every door details visitor restrictions. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

Elk Valley seniors aren’t alone in facing COVID-19

A number of services have popped up throughout town to support seniors during the pandemic

With elderly residents being especially vulnerable to COVID-19, local senior support services have sprouted, while various changes have been made to residential homes and grocery stores.

Cottonwood Tree, a health and holistic centre in Fernie, launched their Adopt a Granny or Gramp program in an effort to reduce feelings of isolation for seniors. In this program, members of the community are matched with seniors to provide them with no contact support during what can be a difficult time for certain residents. The adopter is required to call their paired senior daily, to ensure they are doing well, in addition to following through with facilitating any requests for help. In addition, Cottonwood Tree will be absorbing all credit card charges for groceries purchased there.

This being said, the Adopt a Granny or Gramp program is not meant to replace medical services. According to Mercedes Polewski, a representative from the Cottonwood Tree, this initiative was simply created to support seniors, and relieve the stress they may feel at this time.

“A young person in the community that will check in on you every day is such a comfort…a lot of seniors lived in social isolation before the virus; it’s only worse now. “While before they could go into the common area and meet with some of the other seniors, now all of that has stopped…I think the program will help first and foremost psychologically, which is so important,” said Polewski.

To get involved as either an adopter or adoptee, call Polewski at 250-423-8081 or 250-423-1734, email Cottonwood Tree at, or pick up an application form from their downtown location.

For many seniors, mandatory isolation takes them away from their support systems. With locations where they used to congregate and socialize either closed or deemed dangerous, elders may be experiencing a difficult adjustment.

“This can be a hard time for seniors, especially those who were isolated to begin with. For many, the Seniors Centre was their home away from home, where they could socialize and meet up with one another,” said Jim Booth, president of the Fernie Seniors Centre. “Everybody should be doing what they’re supposed to be doing right now, paying attention to medical advisories, social distancing, and washing hands. The sooner they do, the sooner we can get back to our normal lives.”

Although many senior citizens are struggling with the social isolation aspect of this virus, many are also struggling to have their basic needs met. Several stores in town that provide vital goods like groceries and medications are stepping up to help.

To provide at risk residents with a safe shopping environment that allows for social distancing, Save On Foods will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. only for seniors, people with disabilities, and those most vulnerable. Furthermore, Save On Foods is also requesting that their online shopping services only be used by those not able to physically come in, such as seniors, those self isolating, or residents with disabilities. Kevin’s Your Independent Grocer is similarly offering seniors hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as encouraging only seniors between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on all other days.

For seniors living in long term care facilities, there are several stringent measures being put in place to protect their health and wellbeing. Rocky Mountain Village seniors’ lifestyle community has placed hygiene and contact restrictions on their regular operations in an effort to protect their residents. According to a handbook released by Golden Life Management pertaining to the pandemic, the care home will only be granting essential visitors entry, as well as screening all residents and staff for respiratory symptoms.

Rocky Mountain Village will also be following through with meals and recreation activities while implementing social distancing practices. As it stands, residents are prohibited from leaving the residence unless medically necessary, and any grocery needs will be carried out by staff.

Another retirement residence in Fernie, Trinity Lodge, is also on lockdown, as is Lilac Terrace in Sparwood. According to their official Facebook post, Lilac Terrace has been on lockdown since March 20, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep their 48 residents safe and healthy.

As a result, no visitors will be allowed to enter the building, however exceptions can be made on a case by case basis. Otherwise, only essential services such as emergency responders will be granted access into the building. If families would like to bring the seniors home during this time, they are free to do so, however they cannot bring the residents back until the lockdown has been lifted.

Although this is a difficult time for everyone, seniors in our community are particularly vulnerable to novel coronavirus and it will take a community effort to keep them safe and healthy, both mentally and physically.

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