Edmonton Seniors Centre Goes Digital

ECF grant helps Edmonton Seniors Centre move expansive and engaging programming online

“When the Edmonton Seniors Centre (ESC) was asked to vacate our space, which was located in the Old Edmonton General Hospital, there were 31 infected people infected with COVID-19 there,” says Linda Ensley, Assistant Executive Director for the ESC.

They knew what they offered the seniors’ community, so they knew they couldn’t stop offering programs and decided to go online. This is where  Edmonton Community Foundation stepped in.

On October 1, Edmonton Community Foundation donated $6,000 to the ESC as part of the Government of Canada’s $350-million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt and increase frontline services to vulnerable people during COVID-19.

“Finding ways to stay engaged and connected during the pandemic is important for mental health,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “That’s what makes ESC’s programming so important to fund.”

The funding is helping ESC hire an online event coordinator to facilitate their online experiences. So far they’ve been able to be online since April, providing support, exercise, and companionship.

One of these classes is a painting class with artist and instructor Willie Wong.

“We have a short film about Willie Wong’s art class and what it means to the seniors to be able to still take the class online,” Ensley says. “It also has a student in the video talking about her experience in being able to continue to connect to others during this time of uncertainty.”

“Anyone who has any interest at all in exploring their artistic side should join the class,” says retiree and student Lorette Shutherland in the video. “It’s all about learning the how-to. Most people don’t just sit down and create a masterpiece of art. It’s learning how to do the various techniques so often people say I can’t, I’m not an artist, but I think most of us think that until you learn a few things. This is a great place to learn very basic techniques but the thing with Willie’s instruction is that he will also he personalizes his instructions.”

Willie Wong has been teaching pencil, watercolor, acrylic, and oil painting for more than 20 years to students of all ages and all skill levels, but he excels at inspiring beginner artists with his easy-to-learn watercolor basics.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from a very gifted artist,” Sutherland continues. “The class has such a positive atmosphere and you should join  a class just to to experience what it’s like. It’s a great class for a small social group where you can have some good conversation and lots of laughs.”

Along with the classical online art endeavours, the ESC offers other interesting courses that will come in handy including exercise, legal advice, news summaries, and culinary classes.

Edmonton Seniors Centre is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and opportunities to seniors to further their overall well-being and quality of life.

In 1970, a group of Danish seniors began meeting weekly in the basement of St. Joseph’s Cathedral. As membership increased, a drop-in centre was formed and in 1976 ‘West Edmonton Seniors’ was incorporated as a non-profit organization, their website states.

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.