Age-Friendly Cold Lake is a local volunteer-driven organization and is working to help spread holiday cheer to seniors this Christmas with stockings although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the program.
Sandra Evans, the organizer, started Stockings for Seniors in 2018 and is looking to uplift those she feels can be forgotten about.
The Cold Lake Age-Friendly Society says isolation during the pandemic is a massive concern to them so developing programs, such as stockings for seniors, to connect with older people who spend too much time on their own and who may not have a gift for Christmas is vital. The program has changed a little this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited its ability to spread cheer because of visitation rules.
Diane Stonehocker is the Program Manager for the Cold Lake Age-Friendly Society.
“What we’ve done this year is we have downgraded the program,” Stonehocker told Lakeland Connect. “We are just going to provide Christmas stockings to clients of our other programs. So we’re not going out broadly to the facilities as we’ve completed for a few years.”
That means the service will only be provided to roughly 30 seniors in the City of Cold Lake which will leave many without a gift for Christmas.
“We’re not going to be providing any service in Bonnyville and the surrounding area this year. So just in the Cold Lake area,” Stonehocker said.
A huge change for the program because of COVID-19. In the past, the initiative sees community members in Bonnyville and Cold Lake donate small gifts to seniors, you would choose a name, or register a senior and then the adopter would receive the seniors’ Christmas wish list.
Once the adopter has purchased or made their gift, the unwrapped gift is bought back to the Cold Lake Age-Friendly Society, wrapped, and then distributed.
In 2018, dropboxes were in Cold Lake and Bonnyville, and 244 stockings were given out to seniors in the Lakeland.
“We have had a year or two of COVID-19 which slowed donations but we still have some stuff collected. And so we’re using things that have been there from the past, for example, socks, mittens, hats, puzzles, and games,” Stonehocker said.
But Stonehocker remains optimistic that next Christmas the program will return to normal.
“We’re gonna reevaluate it for next year again and see what’s the best direction to take for it with the program in transition. But our main goal remains the same, for seniors who are isolated to get the same attention at Christmas that others do.”
Do you know a senior who is isolated and alone during Christmas? Elderly people feel more lonely at Christmas. Out of those, two-fifths are alone after their husband or wife has died. Choosing to spend Christmas alone when in your thirties, because you want some time out, is very different from being alone in your eighties and are suffering from chronic loneliness.
Even without joining a society, there are many things you can do in your own community to support the elderly and to ensure that they are included at Christmas. If a neighbour never has visitors or doesn’t go out much, take the time to go and ask them to join you on Christmas Day or even just offer to take them out for a cup of tea, or simply smile and say Merry Christmas.
Please remember the elderly who are alone this Christmas season.