Scanning the globe for news by, for and about Senior Citizens


It is with great sadness when we reflect on who felt this pandemic the most and who bore the brunt of this pandemic, we come up with the answer that [it was] our seniors, particularly seniors living in long-term care. It’s a national shame that’s the case.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
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The community volunteers helping B.C. seniors get COVID-19 vaccines

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The Loop Podcast


The way we’ve treated seniors during the pandemic is shameful

A year ago, in the phony lull between the devastating COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and the first lockdown in Canada, my husband and I had a coffee date with one of his crusty, academic pals. You know the type – given to 50-minute orations on topics du jour laced with historical references to ancient catastrophes, such as the bubonic plague in the 14th century.

“Would it be such a bad thing if the virus culled the population of the old and infirm?” our friend asked rhetorically.

“Wouldn’t that include you,” I interjected, pointing out that we had celebrated his 80th birthday the previous September.

“But I am not infirm,” he shot back.

“Just wait,” I thought grimly, as my friend, who I know to have a generous heart, warmed to his curmudgeonly argument, extolling pneumonia as “the old man’s friend” and deriding our contemporary unwillingness to recognize the inevitability of death.

He was not alone in his view, but at least he didn’t try to turn private musings into public policy, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney did last May. Mr. Kenney signalled his scorn for seniors when he informed elected members of the provincial legislature that “the average age of death from COVID in Alberta is 83, and I’ll remind the house that the average life expectancy in the province is 82.” He went on to argue that the province couldn’t “impair” the social and economic health of the broader population “for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised and those with co-morbidities.”

Would we be so blasé as a society if the victims were 20 years old, rather than 80? Probably not, although I’m not so sure that we care more about the vulnerable young, considering Canada’s lacklustre response to the opioid crisis. Nevertheless, dismissing older victims of COVID-19 as discardable because they are living on borrowed time is beyond inhumane.

What bothers me is not just the fact that the elderly have died at a much greater rate than the general population, but how they have often died: alone, isolated from family, loved ones and other residents, dehydrated, scared, lying in their own filth, desperately and futilely calling for help in understaffed, underregulated long-term care nursing homes and residences. Some of the desperately ill were shipped to hospital intensive-care units, where they expired attached to high-tech machines without a chance to say goodbye, other than a Zoom call, or to have loved ones gather around their bedsides.

There’s an adage that defines the way many of us live our lives: We want independence for ourselves and safety for those we love. That’s how we raise our children, under 24/7 supervision, with the help of relatives, daycare and nannies, depending on our affluence; it is also how we take care of our parents and grandparents by placing them in LTC homes, facilities that morphed during the pandemic from allegedly safe havens into death traps.

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Calgary robotics firm develops robots that help seniors keep in touch with loved ones

Savana Radley hopes more seniors will make use of hands-free technology

Entrepreneur Savana Radley was home recovering from back surgery when she got the inspiration for a robotic assistant that could help seniors who live alone.

“I had my own mobility inhibited for the first time in my life, and I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is actually a glimpse into my future, because we’re all going to get there’ — we’re all going to be in a place where we can’t open bottles or we can’t pick up things from the floor,” Radley told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Radley, who said she has worked in technology firms — including workplace tech firm Benevity and other Calgary startups — said it got her thinking.

“I thought, surely with all of this technology around, it’s all converging, haven’t we come up with something that I can rent?” Radley said. 

“But the answer is actually not really. So that’s where it started.”

Pilot project

Now, Radley’s robotics firm Radley Robots is in the pilot project phase with her telepresence robots, which she describes as “essentially an iPad on a stick on some wheels.”

The robots are able to offer an isolated senior all the technology to stay connected — Zoom calls, Skype, FaceTime, computer access and contact with their loved ones — without the senior having to learn any new technology or touch a device.

“You don’t have to touch anything, we drive the robot,” Radley said.

“The resident calls us, or a friend or a family member calls us directly on a telephone, and … when it’s time for [a video call], we drive the robot to the resident and the call just starts. They don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to learn anything and they don’t have to put their family out.”

Radley said the devices are currently being tested in a Silvera for Seniors facility, a provider of independent and assisted living facilities in Calgary. The devices are being used to help seniors make easy video calls to families.

“One of the things that we found is really interesting is the number of people in these facilities who don’t even try to call their family, because they say, ‘Well, they’re busy all the time, they’re working,'” she said. “They don’t want to be a burden. So we take that piece away from them.”

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