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Second-year medical student Murphy Walker is seen performing a piece on the piano during a virtual talent night organized by medical students involved in the Senior Social Isolation Prevention Program and the SMSS Geriatric Interest Group. (Submitted photo)

Fighting Seniors’ Social Isolation with Music

The idea of a social event for seniors was floated around at our monthly Senior Social Isolation Prevention Program (SSIPP) meeting in December, a program that connects older adults with medical students for weekly phone calls. The idea was to bring joy, entertainment, and promote SSIPP to the older adult community.

Having a passion for helping older adults in our community during COVID-19, I (Jamie) jumped on this idea thinking it would be an excellent opportunity to collaborate with another student group that I’m involved with, the SMSS’s Geriatric Interest Group (GIG).

I brought this idea to GIG and our events coordinator, Lindsay Ironside, loved the idea of hosting an event. It took a little while to figure out how we were going to reach out to the older adult community. Initially, it was a bingo event but the complexities of hosting this virtually provided too many barriers.

Lindsay then suggested a night of entertainment, a talent show! What an excellent idea. Many individuals in the College of Medicine have great musical talent and a lot of care homes in Saskatchewan have limited their entertainment due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Lindsay reached out to a few care homes in Regina and we were able to connect with one that was excited to have us perform for them, Regina Sunset Extendicare. As we started to recruit people, with help from the SSIPP and GIG team, we soon realized there is abundance of talent in the College of Medicine.

Nine students prerecorded their performances for the night which included piano, guitar, opera, voice, and violin. Once the performances were recorded, I was able to compile them into a movie clip allowing the night to flow!

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First-year medical student David Kim is seen performing a piece on the piano as part of the virtual talent night on March 1. (Submitted photo)

Interestingly, most older adults are more comfortable using the Zoom virtual platform. We were able to secure funding for this platform which also allowed us to poll the audience for the best performance. As we were planning the event, we realized that we could invite older adults from the community to also attend the show due to the accessibility of the zoom platform. So, we invited the older adults that were enrolled in the SSIPP program and other older adults in the community.

Overall, we had 38 people attend the evening on March 1, which included Regina Sunset Extendicare, medical students, and older adults from the community. The show was a success, with an older adult saying, “That was awesome, please tell the performers how much we enjoyed it and if [you] ever do it again would love to 'zoom' in.”

The attendees voted the best performance was David Kim, in first-year, who played an incredible ballad on the piano. And in second place we had Kelsey Hammond, a second-year, who played “Somebody’s Daughter” by Tenille Townes on the guitar with vocals.

Older adults in our community are struggling to find events, entertainment, and community during COVID-19. Little initiatives like this and the work that SSIPP is doing is imperative to providing them with outlets to enjoy life in a closed off world.

Jamie Vander Ende and Linsday Ironside are both second-year medical students at the USask College of Medicine.

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