The Kitimat General Hospital Foundation (KGHF) recently got on board to help fundraise to bring back the Mountainview Lodge (MVL) bus for use by residents of MVL and others seniors in Kitimat.
Cynthia Medeiros, Office Coordinator for KGHF, said they decided to take the bus on as a project because of how isolated the seniors who use it are without it, especially during the past few months with COVID-19.
“In the deep lock down, often I would just put my kids in the car and just go for a drive, not to go anywhere but just to get out,” Medeiros said. “Throughout all of COVID, [the MVL residents] haven’t been able to leave the building. If they had their own bus, they’d at least be able drive around.”
The MVL bus went out of commission almost two years ago, which has put a strain on those who used it, including MVL, Kiwanis Village, and Delta King residents, those in the Better at Home program, and seniors who participated in the Activation Program, which provided transport for those living at home who need help getting around town and getting out for socialization.
Nanci Warren, Community Grant Writer with the District said that the bus was used for many reasons, such as outings to Terrace for lunch and shopping, coordinating various doctors’ appointments, taking residents and other community members to church and religious events, and bringing residents and community members to programs at the Snowflake Seniors’ Centre.
“These trips are so important to our residents and clients for so many reasons,” Warren said in an email. “Without them, our residents and community members feel isolated. These outings help with depression, they enhance community connection, they improve quality of life both physically and mentally for residents and community members…and with the increase in the senior population, programs like the Activation Program provide a way for seniors to live in their homes longer.”
Nancyjane Harness’ mother is a current resident of MVL and has been for the past eight years. Her mother used to join the Activation Program before she became a resident, as well, and loved the different outings and activities the groups would participate in.
“They’d go to Terrace at least a couple of times a month. They’d take one group of people one day, then another group the next, and so on,” Harness said. “They loved that, driving down the highway and looking out at the river.”
Harness said in nice weather, they’d often take residents and community members down to the parks, to have a picnic and spend a day out in nature.
“They’d let them enjoy the lake. That was my mom’s favourite activity, the lake,” Harness said. “There was a huge benefit to [just taking them out]. There was such a difference between the person we took from Mountainview Lodge to the person sitting beside me on the bus. We got to have great conversations, show them their community, and just get them out and about.”
Harness said with COVID-19, they haven’t been allowing volunteers or visitors in, so members from the community or other care homes aren’t able to come participate in any activities. Bingo Friday’s were always very popular in the community, but Harness said her mom called her last week to tell her there were only six people at that week’s game, which made her sad.
“They have nothing to do now, because they can’t just be walked out of Mountainview and walked around the community,” Harness said. “Being 24/7 in a residential home, there’s only so many times you can play Bingo.”
Medeiros said KGHF is taking on efforts to raise the funds needed for the bus, including looking for grants, holding fundraisers, and asking for community support. She said COVID-19 has impacted their efforts, for sure, but has only reinforced the need for the bus to allow those in the homes a chance to see and get out in their community, even while stuck in isolation.
“COVID-19 has really put a spotlight on the people in long-term care and their vulnerability,” Medeiros said. “These are our most vulnerable community members, here, that we’re talking about. And these are people that have served our community and served us and we need to give back to them. We need to take care of them in the best way that we can.”