Family serenades isolated Nanaimo senior on her 100th birthday
Published Sunday, March 29, 2020 3:10PM PDT
Bjornson reached out to the assembled crowd as if to hug them. (Neil Smith)
VANCOUVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily life in British Columbia dramatically, but many people are finding ways to connect with each other and celebrate milestones, even while maintaining physical distance to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
That's exactly what friends and family of Alma Bjornson did last week. With their planned family dinner celebration put on hold by the virus, they instead gathered outside the Nanaimo senior's residence to serenade her for her 100th birthday.
Bjornson, who was born on March 23, 1920, came to her balcony at Berwick on the Lake retirement home to listen as friends, family and Berwick staff members sang "Happy Birthday" and presented her with a letter from the Queen celebrating her centennial.
Video produced by her son-in-law Neil Smith shows Bjornson reaching out toward the crowd as if to embrace them remotely.
"It is a great day," she can be heard saying in the recording.
Smith said everyone in Bjornson's residence is in isolation currently, because of the vulnerability of seniors to the virus.
"All meals are served to the door," Smith said in an email to CTV News Vancouver Island. "They are permitted to go out alone on a walk or visit, and are strictly monitored on reentry. Necessary, yes, but leads to chronic loneliness. Difficult for those like Alma who love to play bridge."
On Thursday, Berwick Retirement Communities, which operates the facility where Bjornson lives, announced that a resident at another of its retirement homes - Berwick by the Sea in Campbell River - had tested positive for COVID-19.
Smith said family members are taking turns calling Bjornson daily and making extra effort to stay in touch, without being in physical touching distance.