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Visits mean more to seniors than volunteers know

Visits mean more to seniors than volunteers know

Sources Community Visitors Program


Sources Community Visitors Program

Nancy Hoyano, left, shares a laugh with Rose, who she visits regularly at Peace Portal Lodge as part of Sources' Community Visit program.

Photograph by: Carolyn Cooke , Surrey NOW

When her visitor walks into the room, Rose's face lights up.

"What a treat," she said happily. Rose, 92, lives at Peace Portal Lodge, across from Peace Arch Hospital, and loves her visits with Nancy Hoyano and her mom Phyllis, who is also 92. But this December day, it was just Nancy bearing a plate of freshly baked cookies. She said her mom was running late and she'd go out in a bit to collect her and bring her by to see Rose.

The trio has no set schedule for their visits, but Hoyano said they try to come by to see Rose about once a week or so in an arrangement co-ordinated by Sources Community Services. The Community Visitors program pairs volunteers with seniors who can't get around on their own.

"It started as a volunteer thing," explained Hoyano. Her mom was complaining about not feeling productive anymore, and while she needs some help to get around, Phyllis is still more mobile than Rose. About a year and a half ago, Hoyano decided to check in with Sources to see what they could do together "on the giving side."

"It's turned into a friendship," said Hoyano.

While Rose has some hearing issues, as does Phyllis, she loves to have visitors and share stories.

"We have lots of laughs," said Hoyano.

"That's for sure," said Rose. "You know I wouldn't associate with anyone who doesn't laugh."

She shares funny stories and memories of her husband Jack, who has passed away. For instance, there was the time Jack suspected Rose had gone out and bought a dress she wanted that they had looked at together.

Rose said she denied it but Jack didn't believe her, and asked again.

Hoyano asked if she really did buy the dress and, shaking with laughter, Rose nodded her head. When she caught her breath, said she had hidden it under the bed.

"Everything goes under the bed," she said, setting off new peels of laughter.

Her little room is decorated with live plants, photos and Christmas decorations in the lead up to the holidays.

She also shared stories of collecting autographs of Hollywood celebrities, including Elvis Presley.

"You couldn't get Elvis, but I got him twice," she said. "He was nice."

Rose imitated his deep voice and sheepish response to her request. She also does a great Frank Sinatra impression too, reeling off lines of classic films with ease.

Hoyano, an instructor at Langara College, said both she and her mom look forward to the visits, which vary from sitting in Rose's room to outdoor picnics in summer to outings to White Spot for lunch.

All the expenses of which are covered by the volunteers, said Sue Sanderson, who coordinates Sources' volunteer programs.

She pointed to the trio's blossoming friendship as an excellent example of what the Community Visit program can do for people, both volunteers and the seniors they're paired with.

Even though a senior may live in a building with plenty of other seniors, they still need one-on-one visits and social connections, Sanderson said. Often people forget that moving into an assisted living situation is quite foreign to how most seniors have lived their lives and therefore is a huge transition where supportive relationships can make a big difference.

There is a waiting list of seniors who would like to pair up with suitable visitors. Volunteers must be adults, have a criminal record check and be cleared beforehand.

To find out more about how to volunteer, see, call Sources at 604-542-4357 or email

Twitter @carolyncooke1

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