Ria Goel and Simrit Kocher. (Contributed photo)

South Surrey high school graduates become game show hosts for isolated seniors

Simrit Kocher and Ria Goel launch ‘Distantly Together’ to connect with seniors

Seniors who’ve always wanted to say, “Lets make it a true Daily Double,” will be given a chance to do so, thanks to a pair of Semiahmoo Secondary graduates.

Since COVID-19 measures restricted access to long-term care homes, Simrit Kocher and Ria Goel started reaching out to isolated seniors by hosting virtual game show nights.

Featuring such classics as Family Feud, Jeopardy and The Price is Right, the weekly virtual events are held at care homes in White Rock, Langley and Abbotsford.

Kocher and Goel contacted Peace Arch News to raise awareness about the initiative, which they call Distantly Together, and to attract volunteers to assist with designing the games.

Goel, who had volunteered in senior homes prior to the pandemic, said she got the idea after seeing social media posts about seniors no longer having the ability to meet their friends or family.

“And that got us thinking,” Goel said. “Lets connect with them.”

SEE ALSO: South Surrey-based pen-pal program aims to reduce seniors’ isolation during pandemic

To host the games, the girls use Zoom to broadcast their computer screen on a TV for a group of seniors. Common themes used in the trivia-style games include baking, sewing, cars and travel.

“Now what I’m working on is a Hollywood themed 50s/60s type of trivia. So Simrit and I actually have no idea what any of the answers are, but we hope that they will have a better understanding,” Goel said.

“I practised on my parents and my dad was able to answer all the questions right away. I’m like, ‘I don’t know who any of these people are,’” Kocher added.

The response from the participants has been “amazing.”

“At the end of last week, they were like, ‘Oh let’s give them a round of applause, we really love seeing them,” Kocher said. “One of the senior home’s manager actually contacted us asking if we could give our address so they can send us a gift card or something.”

The events also provide an opportunity to share stories and bond, they said.

“We were able to meet someone from our high school, who went there like 70 years ago. That was really cool to talk to her,” Kocher said.

Noting that high school students require a number of volunteer hours to graduate, Kocher and Goel said they’re seeking volunteers in order to expand the program.

SEE ALSO: B.C. senior home survey to measure COVID-19 impacts

Both girls are heading to university this fall, and need assistance with creating the games. The time commitment, Kocher said, is about two or three hours per week.

“If they’re with us for awhile and are really interested, they can also eventually meet the seniors and host the games themselves,” Kocher said. “That would be down the road because there’s a lot of confidentiality stuff we have to get done first.”

Evergreen Baptist Housing locations in White Rock and Abbotsford, as well as the Langley Seniors Village, have adopted the program.

“We know there’s so many other senior homes, and we really hope that they can benefit from this program. So we just want them to know that hey, we exist,” Kocher said.

To volunteer or learn more about the program, Kocher and Goel can be contacted at distantlytogether@gmail.com

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