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Phone-a-Senior - Video Chatting with Nursing Home Residents

Last Updated: May 28, 2020


With NYC at the epicenter of COVID-19, nursing home residents have lost their daily routines as volunteer programs and recreational activities are placed on pause indefinitely. The loss of therapeutic outlets compounded with strict visitation policies prevents nursing home residents from seeing their loved ones. This has resulted in worsening social isolation among a vulnerable elderly population. Keeping in mind medical students who are eager to help, New York Medical College created a remote volunteering program in conjunction with Rego Park Health Center Nursing and Rehabilitation, where medical students can participate in video calls with nursing home residents. The Director of Recreation and volunteering works in conjunction with a student coordinator to set up daily Zoom video calls with medical students at NYMC. Nursing homes have been hit the hardest during this pandemic and continue to suffer, and this program has provided residents with a recreational outlet to promote companionship and volunteerism during a time of great uncertainty. The weekly 20-minute Zoom calls resemble a virtual pen-pal relationship. The calls began on 3/30, with students requesting to speak with the same residents and students continuing to volunteer over their spring breaks. We continue to have students from all years participate, MS1s-MS4s. The Director of Recreation was able to provide students with brief descriptions of the residents, such as their hobbies and interests, and we tried to match students accordingly. There are several student-resident pairs who communicate in different languages, such as Russian, Cantonese and Spanish. The students have gone above and beyond, demonstrating a level of compassion that contributes to excellent patient care. Residents have sung to their students, students have provided residents with resources to access religious services, students have drawn, and one student delivered a message to a resident’s family member. We hope that eventually, when the visitation restrictions are lifted, that the medical students will be able to meet the seniors with whom they have spent months chatting with. 


Sarriyah Hanif, MS1, New York Medical College (shanif@student.nymc.edu)