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Home » Wellness » Solving the Challenges of Social Isolation in Older Adults

Photo above (taken in February, 2020): Tapestry residents live healthy, engaged, purposeful, and socially-connected lives, enjoying all the local community has to offer, like snowshoeing on Vancouver’s local mountains. Photo courtesy of Tapestry.

Adena Waffle, Tapestry

Adena Waffle

Vice President, Tapestry

Tapestry is countering social isolation by providing vibrant and thriving communities where seniors can lead highly-engaged and socially-connected lives.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation was an issue affecting many Canadians. With older adults in particular, social isolation can have profound impacts on mental and physical health, including an increase in depression, heart disease, and dementia. With the pandemic now imposing physical distancing requirements, the effects of social isolation have been amplified.

Tapestry — with its emphasis on community — counters social isolation by helping its residents lead vibrant, healthy, and socially-connected lives. “Research shows that people who look after their mental and physical health live longer, happier lives, and community living can really help with that, even during a global pandemic,” says Adena Waffle, Vice President of Tapestry, which operates four active aging communities for independent adults in British Columbia and Ontario.

At Tapestry, individuals live independently in suites equipped with full kitchens and can choose between the community’s exceptional restaurant, pub, and bistro.

Tapestry’s service-enriched environment includes personalized wellness programs designed to keep residents physically active and mentally stimulated. Residents have the flexibility to direct their own interests and determine how they want to engage and live.

Unique engagement opportunities

Unique to the Tapestry culture is the strong two-way resident-employee engagement. Employees work closely with residents, get their feedback, and adapt programs so that residents are active in creating their communities. “We always say that it’s not about us doing something for our residents but doing it with them,” says Waffle.

Waffle credits the strong engagement culture with Tapestry’s ability to remain insulated from COVID-19 while keeping residents socially connected. “It was really a team effort of residents and employees coming together to focus on staying healthy while continuing to lead fulfilling, engaged lives and supporting one another during this time,” says Waffle.

Extraordinary creativity drives program delivery

The social engagement challenge led to extraordinary creativity from employees and residents on program delivery. At all communities, fitness classes were provided from the courtyard with residents participating from their balconies. Residents at Tapestry’s Toronto community enjoyed outdoor and online performances by members of the Etobicoke Philharmonic Orchestra.

In Vancouver, Tapestry’s Kitsilano community was treated to an opera singer performing arias around each exterior corner of the building. This resulted in several unexpected but appreciative phone calls from nearby neighbours. “They told us how beautiful and uplifting it was, so it also gave us a chance to engage with our broader community,” says Waffle, noting how Tapestry is always located in diverse and multi-generational neighbourhoods to strengthen inclusivity and community involvement.

Going forward, Waffle expects that more tools, methods, and skills will emerge to keep residents connected and engaged. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to think differently and that’s definitely one of the silver linings we’re taking from this unprecedented experience,” she says.

At a time when staying within one’s social bubble is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19, Tapestry communities are breaking down isolation barriers by offering a larger bubble where individuals can stay connected — and healthy — with like-minded neighbours and a committed team of employees that together create the unique Tapestry “feeling.”

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