After more than two months without visits from family, residents of a White Rock independent living highrise are loading up on safe, mask-free, face-to-face time with their loved ones, thanks to some creative thinking by the building owner.
Last month, PARC Retirement Living opened free-standing ‘family meetup centres’ at each of its five Greater Vancouver facilities – and the opportunity it created to reconnect is going over like gangbusters.
“The feedback has been fantastic,” Shelley Grenier, general manager of the Oceana PARC, said during a tour of the unit located in the loading bay of the 1575 George St. building.
“These… are meant to be a safe, PARC-smart option. (Residents and family members) don’t have to be six feet apart. Families are very, very appreciative.”
Visits were put on hold in mid-March, after a spike in COVID-10 outbreaks forced restrictions to be implemented across the province – and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned that visits to seniors homes will be off the table indefinitely.
Grenier said she believes seniors in general “are going to be vulnerable for the foreseeable future.” And while telephone and video chats are an option for staying connected, they’re not the same as physically having a loved one in front of you, she said.
“Sometimes, you just need to see that person,” she said. “You need to see their eyes, and not through a video screen.”
The meetup centres, Grenier said, have been rented for a year, with an option to extend that time if deemed necessary.
Each is a shipping container that has been converted to include separate spaces for the residents and their visitors, with a Plexiglas barrier in place to ensure physical distancing. There is temperature control, as well as filtered vents that enable safe conversation.
Each side also has its own dedicated entrance, as well as a PARC host who fully sanitizes the unit between visits. There is also a dedicated parking spot and washroom facility.
Residents may reserve the unit – which is currently available to them from Thursday to Saturday, between 2 and 7 p.m. – for 45 minutes at a time at no cost.
Noting that none of the staff or 105 residents at the 23-storey Oceana PARC have tested positive for the virus – “We had one scare” – Grenier said PARC is “purposely going to lag behind” as pandemic-related restrictions are relaxed, to be as sure as possible, moving forward, that residents continue to remain safe.
“The outcome if you don’t? I can’t take that risk,” she said.