It’s the people who Bev Schmahmann doesn’t know about that worries the seniors outreach services coordinator the most.
Normally isolation is an issue for many seniors – some of whom have lost their lifelong partners, some who don’t have family in the community, some who don’t have computers, or some who are unable to make it out the door because of physical disabilities.
And, as people self-isolate themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation has hit seniors the hardest.
For many seniors, now, the only people they will physically see are volunteers delivering Meals on Wheels.
Family and friends are only permitted to call them.
However, some don’t even have internet or computers, and even more, said the outreach coordinator with the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society, can no longer can afford television.
Those, Schmahmann said, are the heartbreaking cases for her because they don’t even have such a basic form of escape.
Currently, Schmahmann knows of two cases with no supports in the community.
So, Schmahmann and her seniors outreach team came up with an idea where they would host a dance party outside seniors residences in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Schmahmann started Pop Up Jukebox at the end of April.
“We started it at that time when everybody was so afraid and locked in,” explained Schmahmann.
“We knew that there were so many people who were shut in and isolated and many of them hadn’t seen anybody for weeks,” she said.
Between seven and 12 staff and volunteers leave the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre every Friday and the Pitt Meadows Seniors Activity Centre on Thursdays – weather permitting – at around 1:30 p.m. with music playing from a 30-cm high speaker, streamers, fun signs ,and a bubble machine.
When they arrive at a residence the dance party begins.
People will, naturally, venture out onto their balconies and dance.
However, the ones dancing are not, necessarily, the seniors Schmahmann needs to reach. She needs to find the seniors, who are not participating, who are not getting out and interacting socially.
“The only way for me to find them is to be out in the community and do this,” she said.
So, during the dance party Schmahmann will talk to people who either approach her or who are out on their balconies enjoying the music, and asks them if they know of anybody who may be isolated.
Her outreach is working.
One afternoon, Schmahmann met a man who barely came out of his front door to tell her that he was watching the dance party and that it was so nice to see people having fun.
As Schmahmann chatted with him, the more he told her how desperately lonely he was – he hadn’t seen another person for weeks and did not have any family in the community.
Schmahmann let him know about the lunch program at the seniors centre, where the kitchen staff prepare fresh, hot, cheap lunches from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Now he goes regularly.
Schmahmann’s Pop Up Jukebox also made its way to Chartwell’s Willow Manor to support residents there during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Pop Up Jukebox has been well received, noted Schmahmann.
Her team will take song requests and is now thinking about having themes, like rock’n roll or country music with line dancers.
People are also welcome to request a visit from the team.
Her intention is to move the dance party around the community.
They are planning a visit to Rosewood Cottage along 225th Street soon, she said.
But it is the joy the music and dancing brings to seniors in the community that has made the Pop Up Jukebox into a weekly event.
“Music moves everybody a little bit,” said Schmahmann.
To request a visit from the Pop Up Jukebox team, people can call 604-380-0516.