Watching sports, growing succulents and singing karaoke are just some of the strategies Richmond seniors are employing to combat the negative mental-health effects of COVID-19.
The pandemic has hit seniors hard and the situation is even worse among Richmond’s Chinese-speaking community since language barriers can make some feel more isolated. But some have found innovative ways to take on the challenge.
Richmondite Daniel Chen, 75, said rooting for his favourite sports team has helped his mental health.
Chen, who has been a die-hard fan of the English Premier League (EPL) since it was founded in 1992, said the bigger the sports fan, the bigger the positive impact on mental health.
“I always pour myself a cup of coffee and watch sports. For some who prefer to watch sports in a stadium, it might not be the same experience, but it’s still lots of fun,” said Chen.
“Sometimes I can even hear my neighbours cheering when the players score a goal, and then I feel I am not alone. We are all rooting for the same team.”
Another Richmond senior, Johnny Tai, didn’t expect his lifelong hobby of growing succulents and cacti in his backyard would be a mental-health benefit for him and his family throughout the past year.
Tai, who spent 17 years purchasing cacti seeds from Mexico, the U.S. and South Africa and planting them in his backyard, told the Richmond News gardening can boost people’s moods immediately, as much as other common types of exercise, such as cycling and jogging.
“The gardening keeps my family sane and we feel we are the luckiest in this difficult situation. Every day we are running around to take care of hundreds of succulents. Just seeing them grow makes us feel extremely pleased and grateful for everything in life,” said Tai.
“The most rewarding part is giving out succulents to people who feel lonely at home. So we will put a call out to invite people who are interested in plants to take one home. Having a full and vibrant palm in your home can be beautiful and lift up your spirits.”
While rooting for your favourite team or tending to a succulent is enough to keep some seniors mentally fit, others need more.
Richmond’s Community Mental Wellness Association of Canada (CMWAC) provides culturally and language-appropriate counselling and support to people in need.
However, its Richmond founder, Ahlay Chin, also appreciates that mental health needs to be supported in various ways, which is why she has launched a seniors karaoke club.
Now the club is one of the organization’s most popular activities and has some members asking Chin to organize more.
“Your voice is the best way to express your inner emotions. When you sing, you put your whole soul into the song. Many club members told me they feel their emotions are fully expressed and they all create a sense of connection between each other. We feel we are closer and even bonded after many songs,” said Chin.
Meanwhile, Chin has been running what she calls “a psychological first aid station” to provide a safe space for people who have questions and concerns about mental health. The program is run by a team of professionals, including counsellors, psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists.