Seniors ring bells, sing O Canada to stay in touch while physically distanced during COVID-19 pandemic

People at a St. Boniface retirement home have found a way to keep each other’s spirits high while they’re isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every Sunday, dozens of people go onto their balconies or stand physically distanced in the courtyard at L’Accueil Colombien to bang on pots, ring bells and sing O Canada for about 15 minutes.

Florence St. Vincent, one of the residents who helped start the now-weekly tradition, said people in the building used to get together on Sundays at the building’s restaurant. But when the restaurant closed, they needed a new way to stay in touch.

“I just thought of it because I had heard that somewhere, I think it was in France, at 6 o’clock they would come on their balcony and they would sing,” said St. Vincent. 

“I’m not a singer, so I said, ‘Well, we can ring [bells], we can make noise.'”

Florence St. Vincent, who helped organize the weekly event, says she misses watching the Winnipeg Jets play on TV, but she knows why physical distancing measures are so important to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

St. Vincent said she and her neighbours tried it out for the first time last Sunday, and now plan to do it every week as more people start showing interest.

“We’ll keep on going. I hope not too, too long, but we’ll keep on going,” she said. “Anything that will lift the spirits … that’s what we all need now.”

St. Vincent said she misses a lot of the things she used to do before the virus arrived in Manitoba, like watching the Winnipeg Jets play on TV, but she knows why physical distancing measures are so important.

St. Vincent said lots of people at the retirement home have health issues, which could put them at a higher risk of having serious complications if they get sick with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“We all have to be careful. But we can do it,” she said. “People have to take this seriously. It’s hard, but it could be worse.”

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St. Vincent said the current situation is unlike anything most people alive today have seen — but it makes her think of things previous generations lived through, such as war and diseases like polio, and how we might look to history to get through COVID-19.

“When things like that happen, you don’t know it’s coming, you don’t know when it’s going to go. You just have to, I don’t want to say accept it, but work all together to make it better, easier, because we don’t know what the future holds,” she said.

“The world’s gonna change after this. For the best, for the worst, we don’t know. But today is today.”

People at L’Accueil Colombien seniors’ home in Winnipeg’s St. Boniface neighbourhood have been going onto the courtyard and their balconies to make noise and stay in touch while being physically apart during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Thomas Asselin/CBC)

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