This Nova Scotia nursing home is going viral, but in the best possible way

At 89, Peggy Kelley uses FaceTime but not Facebook — though she might just go viral on the latter thanks, in small part, to COVID-19.

The photo catching attention shows a great-grandmother with a wide smile and one arm hoisting a dumbbell in the air. In the other, she’s clutching a chalkboard that reads: Tryin’ to flatten my own curve.

She laughs loudly when told that her photo, and the similarly joyful ones of other Queens Manor residents, have been shared nearly 300 times. She beams when someone reads the comments people have left her.

“I’m going to be a star am, I?” she says. She laughs again, her joy radiating.

In Nova Scotia, there have been more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Each photo shoot tried to capture the resident’s personality. (Queens Manor/Facebook)

The photos are a welcome reprieve at a time when the novel coronavirus is devastating long-term care centres in other parts of the country. Kelley and the residents at this rural Nova Scotia nursing home are spreading a little joy instead. 

After Nova Scotia banned visitors from the province’s nursing homes, recreation programmer Laurie-Anne Brown had to get creative in helping her residents connect with their families — and even more so after the long-term care centre put in new rules to impose physical distancing between residents.

Hopefully, the Bee Gees would agree. (Queens Manor/Facebook)

So, she came up with the idea of photo shoots. Each carefully crafted message reflects the personality of the portrait sitter; Kelley is a regular at her exercise classes.

“I think that the residents appreciated kind of our lighthearted approach to it, because it is a heavy, dark, sad kind of time in the real world,” Brown said. “It gives them kind of the boost to go, ‘OK, we can laugh a little. It is OK to laugh. It’s OK to have a little bit of fun.'”

Kelley has a great laugh. It’s something you hear each time someone reads her a comment on her photo, accompanied immediately by a thank you.

“That’s lovely,” she says of a message from her daughter, telling her she “looks awesome.”

Queens Manor was an early adopter of social media, according to recreation director Tara Smith. Although families are the most regular visitors to their Facebook page, Smith said it’s great to see that the photos have been shared nearly 300 times.

Fingers crossed this gentleman will have a fishing pole in his hands before long. (Queens Manor/Facebook)

“Every day, people are looking to see if their family members are going to be on Facebook,” she said. “We’ll get these messages from family, they’ll say, ‘Well I haven’t seen mom on Facebook for a while’ or ‘I keep looking every for [her].'”

Like Kelley, few of the residents use Facebook themselves, but Smith says they understand its power to connect.

Bingo, played with the participants at least two metres apart, has become an even more popular way to pass the time, staff say. Hazel Fisher agrees. (Queens Manor/Facebook)

“Even this little 100-year-old, she’ll say, ‘Well now, you’re going to put that picture on that thing aren’t you, so my family can see that?’ Now every time we take a picture, she asks.”

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