Con Irving isn’t letting the COVID isolation slow him down. Not only is he looking after his wife Dorothy, who is living with dementia, but he also sits on the Fish Creek Residents Council and is a talented wood carver and painter in his spare time. Now, he is taking on the challenge of helping other residents find some relief from isolation.
“I’m on the Residents Council so I know most of the people who live here,” said Con. “One day a few weeks ago I thought that there must be residents who don’t have family nearby and who could use an encouraging phone call.”
Every day, Con calls five or six people to see how they are doing, whether they need anything, and to listen.
“I’ve been a salesman all my life and one of the most important attributes is being able to listen, so when I call them, I always listen to them. People like to talk, especially if they don’t have a lot of family or friends,” said Con.
Being able to connect with others is therapeutic, said Con. “People need people, and you can’t visit in the hallways or at dinner anymore, so getting on the phone is a real morale booster. Plus, I’m getting to know a lot of people I might not normally visit with.
“Generally everyone is happy and feel fortunate that they are here. A lot of them have family in Calgary and can wave at them through the windows when they visit. The families write messages in chalk on the sidewalks and have a few ways to communicate with each other, such as phone and Zoom. Others miss out on that connection because their family isn’t in Calgary, so I see this as another way to build community. I hope my calls help them through this and let them know they have friends who care about them.”
Sheila Brinsmead is one resident who is thrilled with the calls. “I have a large family in Calgary that I speak with regularly, but to have a call from a friend in here just to chat was a complete surprise and most welcome. The isolation that we are all living with is difficult so the calls really speak to his kindness and thoughtfulness for other residents. It is the most wonderful thing. I think it is just superb!”
Con praises the efforts of United’s management to keep everyone informed, and the creative facilitators who are working hard to keep residents engaged. “Management has really stepped up to the plate and put things in place even before Alberta Health Services said we should. I’m so happy that Dorothy and I are here. I can’t think of a better place to be.”
And a happy birthday to Con and fellow resident Joan Galley. To mark the occasion, Con’s family paid for an ice cream cart to deliver treats to every resident at Fish Creek.
Photos by United Active Living, Sherana Productions.
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To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.
Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.