An elderly woman drinks coffee.

Life goes on in senior centres despite restrictions – postcards brighten up daily routines

The coronavirus pandemic has had an extensive impact on the activities organised by senior centres and assisted living facilities. Visits from family members have been banned, and the hobbies and group activities available have been limited. Residents’ living environment has shrunk, but they have been able to adjust fairly well.

‘It is understandable that the well-being of loved ones – partners, fathers, mothers and grandparents – is causing concern. The most common question that family members ask us is how their loved one is doing. Of course, the residents are also aware of the situation, and some days it can make them feel a bit down,’ says Sari Hedman, the director of Kinapori Senior Centre.

‘However, we want to assure everyone that regardless of the situation, come what may, we will never leave anyone to fend for themselves. We will continue to care for all our residents. Their well-being is our top priority,’ Maritta Haavisto, the director of Roihuvuori Senior Centre continues.

Which restrictions apply in the senior centres?

Due to the current restrictions, a resident’s living environment is typically limited to their own group home and private room.

‘The days are no longer filled with quite so many activities as before. For example, we have had to discontinue shared meals and events, ban visits, refurnish our common areas and remove sofas in order to increase safety distances. The carers use protective equipment and also try to maintain a safe distance, wherever possible. However, we are doing our very best to ensure that our residents continue to have a high quality of life,’ Hedman says emphatically.

‘All the safety measures we take are clearly visible to the residents and their families, but PPE is necessary, even though our residents sometimes find it a little odd. But the carers have big hearts, and that still shows through in spite of all the protective equipment,’ Hedman and Haavisto say.

Instructions in case of an infection are clear

The residents’ well-being and health are carefully being monitored at the senior centres. All the facilities have received detailed instructions on what they should do if a resident is suspected of having caught the coronavirus.

‘We have clear instructions in case of an infection and are monitoring our residents for any symptoms closely. We are taking this situation extremely seriously and paying a lot of attention to protection,’ says Haavisto.

Daily lives are being brightened up in various ways

Despite the restrictions and changes in daily life, attempts are made to brighten up the residents’ days in a number of ways.
‘The residents can still spend time outdoors, and we are also arranging new types of activities for them. No one is left on their own, lying in their bed or locked in their room. For example, last week our culture instructor used the building’s speaker system to read aloud the letters and postcards we have received. The residents and us workers listened to them together with tears in our eyes,’ Haavisto says.

‘Performing artists have also offered their help, and they have performed outside with our residents watching from their balconies. The most recent one was a circus performance,’ Hedman says.

Family and friends can stay in touch with the residents in many ways – postcards and letters are especially welcome

Family members can call the residents or video chat to them over Skype or Teams, to name a few options. However, the staff must always be notified before you make a video call.

‘Friends and family also come to say hello under the residents’ windows and balconies. People can see each other while talking on the phone, and this is definitely one of the options. If this is something you would like to try, please contact your loved one’s carer,’ Hedman and Haavisto say.

Family members can also have food or flowers delivered to the residents. The staff will collect the deliveries from outside the front door.

Mostly, however, the senior centres and assisted living facilities would like to receive postcards and letters. These may be sent to people you know and people you have never met before.

‘Please send us lots of letters and cards! They are especially important to people with memory disorders, because they can be touched and read again later,’ Hedman and Haavisto say.

Photo: Aku Isotalo