Technology pilot helps residents stay active and connected

Kim O’Brien, a resident at St. Teresa Place in Calgary, loves to play bingo. But when COVID-19 arrived, many group activities at continuing care facilities had to be suspended or put on hold indefinitely.

Thanks to technology being piloted by Covenant Care and Telus, Kim did not have to wait very long before she could resume her favourite game and other activities she enjoys.

“COVID-19 affected our programs,” says recreation therapist Stephanie Rodgers, who works at the Calgary facility. “Between last March and May, we couldn’t run programs because of COVID-19. But we wanted to go beyond virtual visits with family, so we needed a way to reach out to residents and provide them with something to do.”

Through live-stream technology provided by Telus, and in the comfort of their suites, residents can watch a live or recorded program via a special channel on their televisions.

Bingo, which many other residents including Kim enjoy, was stopped for a while but took on a different form made possible by the new channel with live-stream capability.

Instead of participating in the game in the main dining room, residents watch as the numbers are drawn on Channel 10 and let Stephanie and her team know if they’ve won. 

And Kim appreciates the technology. 

“Bingo is one of my favourites, and I love it when I can mark the numbers from Channel 10. It is a great way to bring a favourite program to us while there are so many restrictions.”

Covenant Care’s IT manager, Tabitha Grady, says the building is designed to support changing technology. “If we didn’t have high-speed fibre optic broadband TV and Wi-Fi already installed at our sites, we would not have been able to have this live-stream capability. I cannot tell you the difference it has made for us to have the infrastructure installed, as it’s been the foundation for us to explore other innovative technologies.”

“This has been amazing as far as the things our recreation therapists have been able to do with this technology, like live-streaming chair exercises,” says Tabitha. “Having the capacity to reach every resident in their room has been wonderful.”

Stephanie says being able to use technology to engage the 250 residents at the site has been very encouraging. “I really like watching the way it helps residents. It’s a great feeling to know that they are taken care of.”

Kim says she also enjoys the exercise programs that can be streamed via Channel 10. “I can do them from my room.”

Last November, residents participated in a Zoom session with renowned chef Michael Smith, in which he did a live cooking demonstration and answered questions they had sent ahead of time. When the session was over, they were treated to the same dish prepared by the site’s kitchen staff.

In December, residents at all Covenant Care sites were able to watch a streamed performance of A Christmas Carol by the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton and a concert by the Calgary Symphony Orchestra on a new public feed that Telus later installed.

The goal is to start sharing programs between sites. Stephanie says the technology provides a lot of benefits, including weekly church services, which residents enjoy. “If one of our chaplains is away, residents from that site won’t have to miss the service.” 

The success of the TV pilot at St. Teresa Place has been replicated at other Covenant Care sites, and Tabitha says more enhancements are coming. “We are working with Telus to stream anything from a desktop or laptop to Channel 10. We will be able to do a whole lot more with this capability.

“Using technology to enhance the lives of our seniors is a huge priority for our organization. There’s a lot of energy and excitement, a lot of passion to find ways to bring some joy to our residents.” 

Contribute to The Vital Beat

Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.

Submit an idea