By Maureen Cameron, the community liaison for Creston’s Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors’ (TAPS)
I would like to share with you a happy part of my day. I ignored a number that I didn’t recognize on my phone’s display; when it rang again with the same number, I picked it up. “You’ve been invited to join a call by TAPS.” I pushed the # key and heard a cacophony of “hellos.” It turns out I was invited to the weekly TAPS Book Club! This is the new iteration of what used to be a weekly in-person gathering at the Creston Public Library, led by Pat Tomasic.
TAPS staff are experimenting with an Uber Phone Conference Call platform that allows them to connect with a few or many seniors at once over the phone. This has led to spontaneous music exchanges, phone bingo and, as mentioned above, the book club gathering. They are still working it out, but the idea of improving seniors’ access to each other and TAPS has put smiles on everyone’s faces as they share jokes, music and stories.
So, YES, TAPS is still going. Despite the mandated and precautionary steps which led to cancelling face to face gatherings, we are happy to report that the connections and fellowship that marked our program are very much alive.
The average age of those who attend TAPS is over 80 and many of our volunteers are over 60. It was a great sadness this past spring to suddenly not be able to meet, enjoy our activities, visit and collaborate with others in our community. In the intervening months, our staff continued to do a stellar job of “pivoting” to carry out our mandate.
They have been experimenting while protecting our seniors, themselves and doing their part for the health of the community. This led to activities like balcony bingos at Rebekkah Manor, Nikkyl Place, Blossom Ridge and outdoor cafes in the summer at TAPS. For a short time, we were able to provide morning coffee and lunch to rotating groups of four people inside at TAPS.
Personal connection is key to what groups like TAPS provide, knowing someone cares and someone is listening. Adjusting to separation and fears for oneself and loved ones are not new to many elders who have lived through much in their lives. Yet this ongoing situation does bring fearful thoughts, challenging our resilience. Being able to share thoughts and support each other is what makes a difference.
What used to be routine daily phone calls for scheduling and check-ins with folks has become an anticipated and appreciated time for an unhurried visit for many seniors. Each staff and some volunteers have a group of people they call regularly to connect with to maintain these relationships.
Delivering cooked meals has replaced our lunchtime group, and it’s a time to connect with people at their homes and bring surprises or celebrate special occasions. Vanessa Lozecznik of the Responsible and Problem Gambling program worked with us to create information packages which were delivered to 150 homes, containing flyers and goodies from Creston Fire and Rescue (CFR), Emergency Preparedness Resource, the Community Resource Network, Seniors First and more. Many thanks to Joyce Seminuk for her colourful handmade bags.
Our volunteers are missing the daily or weekly connections and we miss them too. As the staff negotiated their way through this time, COVID training was provided with some of our volunteers to assist with food preparation and delivery. We now have teams helping staff with various initiatives.
We would like to extend our thanks to Laura Dodman of CFR for the idea of a Community Lip Sync Contest, which spurred our staff into action to submit our video with “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Our seniors love it, and we won first prize! It lifted everyone’s spirits all around.
For a few months now, we have been working on a calendar project as part of our Active Aging grant through New Horizons for Seniors: Economic and Social Development Grant Canada. It is a seniors’ resource and information calendar which will be distributed free of charge to the community and features portraits of TAPS seniors photographed by Brian Lawrence of Inverted Images. It has been made possible through collaboration with a number of organizations in the community.
Thanks to the following groups for their generous donations during 2020. The Royal Canadian Legion with $1,600, Order of the Eastern Star with $1,650, Knights of Columbus with $800, Kokanee Ford with $500, Creston Women’s Institute with $500, Doukhobor Society, Creston Valley Rotary with $5,000 and Kootenay Brass with $50.
We owe a special acknowledgement of a Legacy donation towards our Endowment Fund: $14,496 from the Krafty Kronys of upon dissolution of their group this year. Their fundraising efforts played a key role in the existence and sustainability of TAPS over 15 years. Our appreciation goes out also to community donors and individual anonymous donors who gave through Creston Kootenay Foundation.
We know firsthand the extra work that accompanies the challenges of incorporating precautions. Be Safe and Be Kind are words we’ve heard often, and they remain powerful ongoing guideposts. We keep reminding ourselves that this too shall pass, and as we remember the challenges, we will also recall the encouragement, smiles, compassion, understanding and care. Thanks to all our supporters, staff and volunteers and this amazing community that cares.
TAPS operates under the auspices of Valley Community Services (VCS) at www.valley.services
For donation questions and options, contact 250-428-5547. TAPS program information can be acquired by contacting 250-428-5585.