The Ottawa Citizen
CITY
B8 THE OTTAWA CITIZEN Thursday, July 26, 2001

Video Hookup Links Generations

Teleconference helps preschoolers bring joy to vets
By Karina Roman

For the past few weeks, a new virtual play school program has been brightening the lives of a group of veterans and seniors at the Perley and Rideau Veteran's Health Centre.
 
 Dr Marie-Madeleine Bernard and senior Harry McNaughton talk with preschoolers using a video link.

The seniors, most of them frail, gather in front of a large television at the center, while at the same time a handful of toddlers sit in front of a TV at the River Parkway Preschool Centre.
Songs are sung on both ends, especially on request. The children show pictures they've drawn and perform kits they've prepared.
"They make my life a bit happier," says Christa Archambault, 65, with tears in her eyes. "I had a bad day today. I was close to crying but this gives me a boost."
Charles Bicknell, 88, who served in the Navy for 30 years, says the idea of interacting from a distance is great. "I just enjoy their energy and their interest in everything," he said.
One man even postponed a visit with his wife and his physiotherapy appointment so he could attend.
The program is run by the PACE 2000 International Foundation, a charity that aims to foster communication between seniors and young people as well as increase the independence of the elderly.
PACE director Dr Marie-Madeleine Bernard says the television and accompanying technology is not a barrier, but helps make contact where otherwise none would exist.
"These are generations that often don't meet and the seniors are more receptive to meeting in person after a few videoconferencing sessions," says Dr Bernard who says they are arranging for the toddlers to come to the home to meet their new elderly friends at the end of the summer.
"The sessions trigger curiosity on both sides to meet face to face", she said.
And the children gain almost as much from the experience as the seniors.
"They think it's fun and now they're starting to recognize some of the seniors by name," says Coreen Blackburn, director of the preschool center.
PACE also runs virtual medical programs and is partially funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.


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