When Canadians first went into lockdown in the spring to help stop the spread of COVID-19, Marlene Hodgins knew that even though she is single, she wouldn’t be on her own. And now that pandemic restrictions have increased again, Marlene knows she and her neighbours will get through these uncertain times together.

Marlene has lived in The Bluffs at Huron Haven in Goderich for a few years and helps run the social committee in the community. She understands firsthand how supportive the residents are.

“My neighbours checked up on me because they know I’m an extrovert and they knew it was going to be a hard time for me.”

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of strong communities, particularly for retirees, empty nesters and seniors. And it has reaffirmed how vital it is for people to be connected and engaged with a supportive social network.

This is one of the reasons Marlene loves living in The Bluffs. Residents here have made sure their connections remain strong, even while maintaining physical distancing. They’ve come up with creative ways to keep active and have fun.

“We do a lot of walking together,” says Marlene. “We were given permission to do our line dancing lessons in the parking lot. We’re trying to find ways we can do things outdoors and check in on people here.”

This summer, Marlene and her friends held line dancing classes outdoor in a community parking lot. They continue to go for walks together while remaining 2 metres apart. One of the big highlights was a community dance party in front of people’s houses to lift spirits up.

Strong communities go a long way in supporting people’s health and wellbeing at any age, particularly for those who live alone. As we enter into the winter months and people will spend more time indoors, Marlene and her social committee members are strategizing ways to keep people engaged and break feelings of isolation.

Snow shoeing, cross country skiing, outdoor photography contests, meeting outside at a bonfire and happy hour cocktails over video chats are just some of the ideas being planned at The Bluffs.

Winter is also top of mind for Linda Charron, who lives at Park Place in Wasaga Beach, Ontario.

Linda is the president of the community Homeowners Association and helps to plan and develop a variety of activities for residents along with her committee of 10. They’re currently brainstorming ways to keep people connected and occupied during the cold weather months. Many residents of this community are in their 70s, 80s and even 90s and it’s challenging to keep active when the snow falls.

When Canadians went into lockdown back in March, she says her committee knew a lot of residents would need extra support.

“We got a phone list going and started calling everyone on it,” she says. “We reached people who were feeling panicked because they didn’t know how to order groceries online, or how they were going to get their medication from the pharmacy.”

The phone tree volunteers were able to identify those who needed assistance and help them get food and essentials. They were even able to figure out that a resident’s phone was out of order and ensured it was repaired.

Most importantly, the committee realized there were a lot of residents who were feeling very lonely. Linda says the regular wellness check calls made a huge difference for those who were feeling isolated.

“People look out for each other here a lot and that’s one blessing of living in an adult community”, she says. “We all have the aches and pains and know what old age looks like and what you need.”

“If you lived in a subdivision, you typically live with younger families whose lives and challenges are much different, Linda says. “Here, when someone needs something, we all jump in and help. The support level is just terrific here.”

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