Abbotsford House is more than a building

When COVID hit, Judith Hoye pivoted from exercise classes to phoning seniors to let them know how Abbotsford might help them.   Photo: Bruce Hill

By Julie Ireton

Some seniors who have made Abbotsford House at the Glebe Centre part of their lives for years didn’t realize what the senior’s centre across from Lansdowne Park really meant to them until the forced lockdowns and isolation caused by COVID-19.

Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, Judith Hoye took three exercise classes a week at Abbotsford. Then she’d stay after class for social time, coffee, treats and laughs.

“All that ended as COVID took over,” said Hoye.

But just because she couldn’t go to Abbotsford, it didn’t mean her interaction with other members needed to end.

Hoye was one of the volunteers who made regular phone calls to half a dozen other seniors, keeping them up to date on how the centre and its staff might help them out, such as by lending them computer tablets. She encouraged those isolated from friends and family to get involved in Zoom programming, like online art classes. The phone calls and interaction benefitted her too.

“Some of those people have become friends and, although I have never met them, we will meet when the world rights itself and we can meet face-to-face,” said Hoye.

With vaccine mandates now in place, she plans to get back to some of the centre’s activities.

“Abbotsford is a place where people meet and laugh,” said Hoye. “It provides a place where interesting people gather, do something useful and keep our minds and our bodies stretched and resilient.”

Fitness classes are one reason Merilyn Neilson is glad to be back at Abbotsford after months away. She says the functional fitness class she has joined helps with strength, mobility, balance and muscle tone.

“I love it,” said Neilson, who is also looking forward to further easing of restrictions, possibly in the new year, so the Abbotsford bridge group can get back to playing cards.

“I think it’s an excellent facility. There should be more Abbotsfords. I think it saves a lot of senior people in many ways with the friendships and the exercise.”

Even though she’s not a “techie,” Neilson said she did adjust to taking Zoom art classes, using watercolours and acrylics. “I was glad I did, it was better than nothing.”

Being able to go back to the centre this fall has lifted her spirits.

“Abbotsford is something we truly appreciate,” said Neilson. “It helps us stay in the community rather than finding other ways of living.”

Muriel Scott Smith is another member who recently came back to the centre to rejoin her mahjong club, an activity she’s been part of for the past 10 years.

While Scott Smith didn’t take part in Zoom classes, she was able to get rides to medical appointments through Community Support Services. She’s now looking forward to the day when coffee and lunches are back on track at Abbotsford.

Pat Goyeche, the coordinator of community programming, is pleased to see folks back in the building and hopes that by January most of the favourite classes, clubs and social gatherings will be “in the house” and at capacity.

The November and December programming of online and in-person classes and clubs are listed on the Glebe Centre website (glebecentre.ca) under “current program guide.”

Abbotsford is your seniors active living centre for adults 55+. It houses the community programs of The Glebe Centre Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization that includes a 254-bed long-term care home. Find out more about our services by phoning 613-230-5730 during regular business hours or by checking out all The Glebe Centre facilities and community programs on our website at glebecentre.ca.

Julie Ireton is a journalist who contributes regularly to the Glebe Report on issues affecting Abbotsford.

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