Everyday Hero: Duo hosts streetside dance parties for quarantined seniors

May 7 2020, 8:27 pm

Everyday Hero is an initiative by TELUS, in partnership with Daily Hive, that puts local people doing good in the spotlight. If you know an everyday hero who you would like to nominate, click here.

The continuation of social distancing practices nationwide is inspiring many Canadians to get creative with how they spend their time. For the local heroes in our community, like Judy Bjornson and Susan Bock-Smith, this means helping others, making their days special, and inspiring community.

Bjornson is a fall prevention, balance, and mobility specialist. She co-owns Team Surefeet with Bock-Smith and the duo has instructed more than 3,800 classes at locations across the North Shore since 2010.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has left Bjornson and Bock-Smith out of work for the foreseeable future and on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Despite this adversity, the business owners and their Surefeet team members have been bringing joy to seniors who are stuck indoors.

Residents at Amica Edgemont Living

Before the pandemic hit, Team Surefeet taught regular mobility classes at Amica Edgemont Living, a senior residence in North Vancouver. However, classes finished on March 14 when lockdown began for residents of the care home.

Priscille Leroux, life enrichment coordinator at Amica Senior Lifestyles, asked the team to hold an outdoor session for the residents in lieu of the classes.

“I think she thought that we’d stand outside and move around a little bit,” Judy Bjornson tells Daily Hive. “We put it out to our team, and we decided to do it all in costumes and have different music and themes.”

Now, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Team Surefeet leads 15-minute sessions for residents on each side of the care home. “We were blessed enough to be asked by her [Leroux], and we’ve just kind of taken it away from there.”

For their first session, Team Surefeet chose a cowboy theme, with music by country artists. On another grey, overcast day, they wore their most colourful outfits while tracks played that prompted sing-alongs. “It was really — sincerely from my heart — one of the nicest things I’ve ever been involved in,” says Bjornson.

Some of the other themes that Team Surefeet has created are black and white (featuring nostalgic music with songs like “Que Sera Sera,” and “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here”), and Rosie the Riveter (featuring music from the Second World War era). Bjornson describes the entire experience as “happy and uplifting,” for both the dancers and the residents.

The reaction from seniors inspires Team Surefeet with every session. “The balconies are chock full,” says Bjornson. “The second time we were there, oh my god. Door after door after door would open and people would come out on their balconies and dance and have funny hats on.”

Bjornson says residents in dementia and assisted living wards have also been participating as able. “You’re looking in and the caretakers are in full COVID gear, and they roll them [the residents] up at their windows.”

Although the home has seen its share of tragedies during this time, the residents are staying positive and look forward to Team Surefeet dance sessions. “We get comments like, ‘this is the nicest thing that I have,'” says Bjornson.

Team Surefeet is now offering free Zoom classes online for seniors as well as Parkinson’s and stroke survivors. They have free classes online every day of the week, and often see up to 75 people in total throughout their busiest days.

“With our Parkinson’s class, because it’s the last class of the day, we stay and we have a social,” adds Bjornson. “For people who live completely alone, they’ve figured out how to get online, and all of a sudden they feel connected.”

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