An IRIS gathering in pre-COVID times. (File photo)

An IRIS gathering in pre-COVID times. (File photo)

Castlegar senior’s program adapted through pandemic

IRIS switched from in-person gatherings to delivering services

Submitted by Sandi McCreight

IRIS: Increasing Recreation Involving Seniors — our goal is to do just that. And we were, and well, with more than 15 events per month.

And then along came COVID.

Despite COVID, we were able to adapt to provide services and reach our goals – challenging isolation through inclusion and connections to us, information, services and each other. When COVID prevented us from on-site events, we created Lunch to Go.

From mid-March 2020 through July 15, 2021 (last delivery), 6,400 lunch-to-go bags were made and delivered.

The lunch bags contained a homemade main dish, baking, yogurt, cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, and much more. A newsletter (37 editions) in each bag contained chair yoga instructions, healthy recipes, humour, current accurate information on COVID and other relevant topics, brain exercises and feature articles on seniors themselves.

Intergenerational connections continued despite COVID. Robson Community School students and preschool kids from Silly Monkeys Daycare made seasonal cards, and grads made cookies and cards and did a soup drive. All were delivered in the lunch-to-go packages.

Further connecting was done through the IRIS crew via regular check-in calls. Selkirk faculty and students from nursing, pre-med and social work partnered with IRIS in a COVID and seniors research project (effects of COVID on older adults), COVID information session (masks, handwashing and more), Two’s Company (students and seniors weekly phone visits), feature articles (students interviewing seniors), walking group and a flu clinic (in partnership with Pharmasave).

We are happy to report that as of June we’ve started back with chair yoga, journaling, a cook-and-share program and June 24 was our first Lunch and Learn on-site event with 20 older adults and five IRIS crew. It was great information sharing but clearly the highlight of the event was the social connecting, appreciated by all.

The IRIS crew has adapted, created, sustained, persevered and rallied to make this happen. With COVID regulations forcing a greatly reduced number of volunteers, the chores were heavy and shared by few. With great, huge hearts – it was done, and done extremely well.

Thank you to the IRIS crew for your dedication and hard work. Whether you baked, shopped, organized, packed or delivered – you had great impact on the success of the IRIS COVID response.

Special thanks to others that helped too. Organizations, businesses, individuals – you are so appreciated.

Now, let’s get back (safely) to in-person gatherings. We missed you!

IRIS is a project of Castlegar CRN, part of the BC CRN. Creating communities free of adult abuse and neglect, where everyone is respected and included.

Sandi McCreight

IRIS Coordinator

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