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No COVID-19 'best gift,' say seniors, as they cope with scaled-down Christmas

This year's holiday festivities are subdued for many Coquitlam area families, but these Port Coquitlam seniors aren't letting the coronavirus pandemic quell their Christmas spirit
Pat Jensen Astoria resident with Christmas village
Port Coquitlam resident Pat Jensen with her Christmas village.

There’s a little bit of Dr. Seuss’ Whoville in everyone at the Astoria Retirement Residence in Port Coquitlam.

As the countdown to Dec. 25, 2020, gets underway, residents are finding ways to make the best of things and, while there’s no Grinch to steal holiday plans, folks have a calm sense of getting on with things the best way possible.

For the past several weeks, sing-alongs and other festivities have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, and although residents can still visit family while wearing masks and social distancing, Christmas is subdued this year.

“People have adapted and I think are making the best of a bad situation. I guess at the top of the wish list for Christmas is just keep the place COVID-free and the second wish would be get the vaccine approved and administered,” says Jim Peacock, who is a member of the residents’ council.

While the vaccine has already been approved — and is rolling out at some long-term care facilities — seniors like Peacock will have to wait their turn for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

In the meantime, Astoria residents are staying put due to Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders to keep celebrations small and with immediate household only.

That means Peacock is giving up a trip to be with family in Whistler but he’s still got a great Christmas Eve turkey dinner to look forward to, prepared by the Astoria staff, and will be able to visit friends at the retirement home while wearing masks and sitting six feet apart.


Family can still visit, and taking a walk outdoors is the way most people are connecting with loved ones, Peacock said.

On Christmas Eve, as holiday lights sparkle at the residence at 2245 Kelly Ave., 98-year-old Denis Probst will be continuing his annual tradition of reciting Clement Clarke Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. 

Probst began the tradition of reciting his favourite poems when he regularly visited Dogwood Pavilion, and residents expect he will put his special oratorial touch to the holiday favourite, according to his friend Joy Silver.

Astoria has also been decorated to mark the occasion, and while the Christmas ornaments have been scaled back somewhat to ensure people don’t congregate, a Christmas village has been erected to give people a little sparkle of joy.

Pat Jensen, who was named Astoria resident of the year in 2020, owns the display, and with the help of staff, put out some of the pieces for residents to enjoy. “It’s a bit of a fun thing,” said Jensen, who has been collecting the pieces since 1984 and this year has included miniatures of the Astoria residence and the Astoria tour bus in her collection. 

At one point, Jensen had 87 pieces, including Elvis’ Graceland. Now she has 53, which Astoria stores and helps her bring out for the holiday season. It reminds her of Christmas in the Coquitlam home she lived in prior to moving to Astoria. “We had big parties at our house,” Jensen recalled. “Christmas Eve was family and Christmas Day was everybody including those walking down the street.”


This Christmas Jensen said she will be keeping her spirits up by visiting with friends, and says there is no point in being disappointed, angry or grumpy about the way things turned out with coronavirus this year.

As the Whos in Whoville discovered in the timeless Seuss classic in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas is a feeling, and regardless of what new traditions are made, being together and recognizing love for one another is most important — even if celebrating apart — via Zoom or FaceTime.

Says Jensen: “Hey, live each day like it’s your last, who the hell knows when you’re going to be gone. I tell everybody here, as I walk past and I make them laugh. If you haven’t smiled once in the day, you’ve wasted your day. That I usually gets a smile.”