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Coquitlam therapist offers time well spent with isolated seniors

A Coquitlam therapist has launched a new service that helps seniors get through some of the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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A senior works on a birdhouse kit put together by the Coquitlam Men's Shed Society.

A new service in the Tri-Cities is helping independent seniors overcome some of the isolation they may experience while keeping them physically and mentally active.

That’s become especially important with so many seniors staying home and limiting their social contacts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Christine Chipman, a recreational therapist who recently launched Time Well Spent Senior Wellness.

Chipman said while the loneliness and isolation being felt by seniors living in care homes as they’ve been locked down has been well documented, the plight of those still living independently in their own homes has been harder to quantify.

“It’s hard to find the words to express the type of isolation and fear the pandemic has brought to seniors living at home,” she said, adding their independence and social interactions are often the things that keep them vital and engaged.

But take those away, Chipman added, and the descent in their quality of life can be quick and unforgiving.

“It sets them back,” she said. “If they lose their mobility, if they lose their social connections, you can’t catch up.”

So Chipman, who’s worked with seniors at care facilities like Hawthorne Lodge in Port Coquitlam, decided if the older population can’t get out and connect with their friends, she’ll go to them.

A two-hour visit can be as simple as a card game, working with a client on a watercolour painting or accompanying them on a walk around Lafarge Lake.

It’s all about keeping seniors alert, exercising their cognitive abilities as well as their limbs and joints by using activities they already enjoy.

“They often don’t know they need it, they don’t see the benefits” she said. “They just think of them as a way to fill their day.”

Chipman recalled a recent 79-year-old client who was struggling with his feelings of isolation because he wasn’t able to pursue his woodworking hobby. She enlisted the Coquitlam Men’s Shed Society that put together a kit that would allow her client to build and paint a birdhouse at his kitchen table.

“This project was an ideal way to keep him engaged during such an isolating time.”

Chipman said launching her service during a pandemic has been a bit of a double-edged sword: She knows the need is there, but she also has to be careful about the health guidelines. She wears a mask, practises safety protocols like maintaining her distance and sanitizes frequently.

The extra effort is important, Chipman said. “This pandemic has shown us how you can be isolated. Once those barriers are up, they’re hard to overcome.”

To learn more about Time Well Spent Senior Wellness, go to