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Jeannine Bastien recently invited people to build snowmen outside Vankleek Hill's Heritage Lodge. This field of snow characters can be viewed from the Heritage Lodge sunroom/exercise room.

Maintaining connections with their family and community important for seniors

Interacting with others and keeping in contact with what is happening in the community are important factors in the care of seniors.

“We take care of seniors and we’re very focused on taking care of all of their needs – where they live, how they eat, their medication, schedules, keeping them healthy,” comments Jeannine Bastien, Director of Sales and Recreation at Heritage Lodge in Vankleek Hill. “But what they really, really enjoy is knowing that someone loves to play music, and they want to hear more. Or that someone is an author – they want to know more.”

Bastien has been working with seniors for the past four years, since going back to school in 2014 to study Food and Nutrition Management at Alfred College through the Ontario Second Career program. Upon graduating with honors in 2016, Bastien – who previously had run her own equestrian centre and consultation office as a naturopath – found herself with a choice to make.

“I have so much gratitude for being able to go back to college,” Bastien recalls, whose study choice led to her current career. “When you graduate, you have to choose – do you go into food production, or work with seniors in facilities?”

“I was pulled (towards seniors) because I wanted to give something back.”

Bastien worked in nutrition part-time at several seniors homes, including Heritage Lodge from 2017-19. Last autumn she returned to Heritage Lodge, but this time to assume the role of Director of Recreation during a maternity leave.

Prior to the lockdown, residents of Heritage Lodge were regularly treated to visits from guest speakers, musicians, authors and even motorcycle racers.

“Brian Henderson pushed his motorcycle right into the lodge,” says Bastien, who was surprised when an elderly resident of Japanese descent hopped on the bike. “It turns out that he raced when he was a youngster in Japan.”

Since the lockdown, the authors, musicians and other volunteers have continued to interact with the seniors at Heritage Lodge through the use of technology. Connecting with Heritage Lodge through online meetings, volunteers can read, play music, do Tai Chi, and even answer questions from an inquisitive interactive audience.

“People that come and speak about what they love revives a lot of memories for our seniors,” Bastien emphasizes. “All of a sudden there is sharing about their own youth or what their children or grandchildren do. It’s that connection to make them feel alive through other people.”

“Seniors want to know that people outside of their building have a life. They want to know that people are having fun and are doing things they love.”

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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