PRINCE ALBERT -- Seniors are struggling with the adverse effects of pandemic isolation measures, said John Fryters, pastor and director of the Heart of Seniors Gathering Centre.

That’s in addition to the anxiety of being one of the groups particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Fryters said it’s hard to tell if this amount of need existed before the COVID-19 pandemic or if the isolation measures have just brought more of it to their attention.

“I think COVID-19 has exposed all kinds of needs which might have been there, which might not have been there,” Fryters said.

The centre is concentrating its efforts to supporting seniors living in Prince Albert’s downtown neighbourhoods. In April, they started a food hamper and hygiene hamper program. The funds to buy the supplies began with a monetary grant from the New Horizons for Seniors Grant. A second grant of $20,000 from Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food security charity, will allow the program to continue for several months.

“They’re running short financially. They’re running short with food. They have to make decisions for instance, to buy their medications or buy food." Fryters said.

The centre has also mobilized volunteers to phone seniors who live alone and need conversation.

The Victoria Hospital Foundation started the COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide a place for people to donate for supplies and equipment needed locally to get through the pandemic.

“Items that will help mitigate severe isolation that our long-term care residents and some of our long-term patients that are inside the hospital need desperately right now since they cannot have any visitors,” said CEO of the Victoria Hospital Foundation, Sherry Buckler. “It’s just been a real blessing that people have been willing to donate to help make that happen.”

The foundation purchased eight iPads. Three iPads went to the Herb Basset Home as well as a screen smart TV to help people connect with the outside world. iPads also went to the hospital.

“In order to keep them in good health and to keep their spirits up we need to keep them in contact with their families,” said Bucker.

Residents at the long-term care home use the iPads to video chat with family and friends.

“Staff assists the residents to set it and then they have privacy to talk as long as they want,” Bucker said.

“They love them. I’ve seen photos of some residents talking and it’s just big smiles. They can hear their voice, they can see their facial expressions.”