Safe reading and discussion groups restart at Willows Estate

Residents enjoy discussing current events, and having this program back has been important to them, says LEA

Willows Estate life enrichment aide (LEA) Azaria Kanda has restarted a long-popular reading and discussion group for the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s residents with social-distancing in place.

Azaria says reading and keeping up to date with current issues and events is a favourite activity for residents, and it’s a passion he shares with them.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, there were regular group reading and discussion groups for residents. However, because group programming was suspended in Ontario long-term care homes for three months after the pandemic began, the groups were not able to meet.

With restrictions easing, Azaria has been hosting two smaller reading-discussion groups on both floors at the Willows, with social distancing in effect.

During the discussions, residents talk about subjects ranging from politics to sports. But stories about current events residents read in newspapers are the favourite, Azaria says.

“The residents are very aware and they really stay on top of the headlines – and I think it’s one thing for them to hear or read about (news) and it’s another thing for them to expand on that (with discussions) to give their point of view and to talk amongst one another,” he says.

Indeed, there has been a lot to talk about in 2020. Aside from the pandemic, there has been increased awareness about racial injustice and mounting concern about the state of the economy.

“Those three topics have really been at the forefront,” Azaria says.

During the week ending Sept. 12, the groups talked about the pandemic. Last week they discussed racial injustices. This week they are scheduled to talk about the economic situation.

“A lot of the residents were born in the 1920s or 1930s, so they’ve lived through many decades, and there’s always a common thread to find because each generation has had its (struggles), whether that be war or political turmoil,” Azaria says.

“So, it’s really interesting to talk about that common thread, to talk about what’s happening now, and a lot of the residents don’t find it that surprising to be going through this because they’ve gone through major cultural shifting moments before.”

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