A Greater Victoria woman is aiming to tackle loneliness in the region, one phone call at a time.
Josie Gair, a teacher by trade, has set up call list for seniors, so they can have some friendly conversation during these isolating times.
“So many people in care homes are really losing out on community right now, so I think this is an important bridge for people to be social while in the safety of their own houses,” said Gair. “I can’t imagine sitting in my room worrying, not visiting and feeling scared I might catch a virus.”
The idea for creating the Seniors Friendly Call List also sparked for Gair because of her own grandmother. Gair has felt how lonely it is in isolation lately, and thought, “Wow I really need to give my grandma a call.”
This made her realize how many seniors must be feeling incredibly isolated at this time, and then decided to take action.
“I saw a group of people who have an excess of time because of the pandemic, and another group who are just sitting feeling so lonely, and I connected the dots,” said Gair. “Then we just put a post up on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested, and the response was overwhelming.”
Gair has since made a list of about 170 volunteers, and shared it with numerous care homes around the Island.
“I kind of leave it in the hands of the care homes so they can decide if they wish to participate or not,” said Gair.
“This also helps protect the seniors because the care homes can make sure the seniors who are making the calls have enough awareness to hang up if things aren’t going well.”
The call list includes a name, number, availability and a small bio about the volunteer so seniors can see a little bit about that person before they call, and more easily choose who they would like to talk to.
Unfortunately there isn’t a way for Gair to monitor and get criminal checks for all the volunteers who sign up, so she wants to remind seniors never to give their personal details away over the phone, and to hang up the moment they feel uncomfortable.
“This is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, so the second it isn’t, hang up,” said Gair, adding that seniors can also block their caller ID number before calling, to help enhance their safety. Information on how to block caller ID can be found at the top of the caller list.
If all goes well, Gair hopes the calling list could continue even after the pandemic is over.
“I think this will benefit both those who want to help out, and those who are in need of a little support,” said Gair. “It’s amazing how eager people are to help, and hopefully some beautiful friendships bloom from this.”
Seniors not living in a care home can also access the calling list by contacting Gair directly. Anyone wishing to obtain the list or to volunteer can email firstname.lastname@example.org.