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Lodge residents adapt to pandemic precautions

Pioneer Lodge residents Emil Wettstein, Gerda Vanden Biggelaar and Dini Vanee keep active with indoor curling.

Pioneer Lodge residents have overcome many challenges and hardships in their long lives, so they’re not about to let the COVID-19 pandemic get them down.

The seniors have rolled with the many punches the pandemic has delivered since March and while life isn’t what they might like, their spirits remain high.

“Overall everyone is very content,” lodge enrichment co-ordinator Nicole Asuchak said in an interview. “Residents socialize with each other and our caring staff keep them busy with all different kinds of engaging activities.”

With COVID-19 restricting the public’s access to the lodge, the residents cherish any contact they can have with family members and friends.

“Residents are always happy to have contact with their loved ones,” Asuchak said.

That is especially true during the Christmas season, with residents having to designate just two people who can come for a visit in their suite.

These designated support people can visit their seniors at any time but must first be screened for the virus.

Dini Vanee and other lodge residents keep busy with crafts and other activities.

Residents can also use the lodge meeting room, which has a plexiglass barrier across the table to ensure a safe visit and sometimes a meal.

The Christmas season is normally a busy one at Pioneer Lodge, with plenty of musical entertainment.

Students from W.A. Day and Providence Christian schools, as well as home school children, will drop by to entertain residents with carols and other songs.

Pete and the Re-Petes, the Welcome Mat Singers, the Music Makers, the Frayed Notes, Granum Colony singers, Vic Burton and family choirs are also booked through the season.

Children would usually drop by the lodge to decorate cookies, make gingerbread houses and play games with residents. Donna Hurd baked pies for a bake sale.

A shopping extravaganza is usually arranged, with merchants coming to the lodge to sell their wares.

In other years lodge and Col. Macleod Manor residents travelled to Lethbridge for the festival of lights at the Japanese Gardens, supper at Pizza Hut, shopping at the mall and a tour of Christmas light displays.

Pioneer Lodge also hosts an annual resident and family Christmas party with food, music, pictures with Santa and a silent auction of donated items, with proceeds going to the resident activity fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a stop to those and other plans this year, however.

Having plans cancelled is a common them this year, with most activities scrapped when the pandemic was declared in March.

Some activities returned under new safety precautions, such as having just one resident at a table for bingo, rather than three or four as would normally happen.

When they gather to play card or board games, residents wear non-medical masks and use hand hygiene.

Lodge staff removed all common touch items from the dining room, and now serve all food. In the past residents could help themselves to drinks and snacks.

Even with the new restrictions, residents continue to lead an active lifestyle at the lodge.

Residents go for walks outdoors whenever possible, moving those walks indoors when the weather doesn’t co-operate.

Pioneer Lodge accessed a grant to fund the purchase of iPads for the residents, which they use to visit loved ones, attend virtual church services and play games.

New recumbent bicycles provide residents like Elisabeth Pfeffel and Alice Schamp with a new physical activity.

The lodge also received a grant to buy recumbent bicycles that the residents added to their exercise routines.

Lately, with Christmas just around the corner, activities have taken a seasonal turn.

The lodge’s little Elf on a Shelf hides in a different spot each day, providing the seniors with the fun of finding him in order to win a prize.

Lodge residents will head out for a tour of Christmas lights in Fort Macleod, so people are urged to decorate this year.

A virtual performance of the Nutcracker as well as an interactive comedy magic are planned this month, along with a few other surprises.

Family and friends who are not among the designated support people are urged to drop by for a socially distanced visit through the windows.

Children could build snowmen outside the lodge and manors for residents to enjoy.

Fort Macleod residents who want to help brighten the Christmas season can send videos, messages and pictures to pioneerlodge2026@gmail.com. Staff will pass those on to specific individuals or to all residents depending on the wishes of the sender.

Virtual visits are also encouraged, and Christmas cards would be welcomed as well.

On Christmas morning, the residents will find a small gift at their breakfast tables, and will be treated to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings later in the day. Small group activities are also planned.

Pioneer Lodge residents thank Fort Macleod residents for being safe and following the public health guidelines and restrictions.

“The more cases out in our community, the more chances of our seniors getting sick,” Nicole Asuchak said. “Staff members, families and workers in the health care fields need your help in staying healthy, so they can avoid bringing COVID-19 into our seniors’ facilities.”

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