CHEK Upside: New volunteer project aims to help isolated seniors

WatchThrough the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, volunteers are making phone calls in the hopes of lifting the spirits of society's most vulnerable.

Victoria-based artist Libby Oliver is usually up close and personal with her art subjects.

“I would say I’m like a relational artist, so a lot of my work is involving working with people and building relationships first and then doing [photo] portraits of them,” Oliver told CHEK News.

One of Oliver’s new subjects is 92-year-old Victoria Kilby, a Luther Court Care facility resident.

Except for this project, no photos will be taken for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead, Oliver, through the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, has spearheaded a volunteer program that connects people with isolated seniors.

It’s called the Listener in Residence: Phoning Seniors Together program. The hope is that a simple, friendly phone conversation could go a long way.

“She’s incredibly brilliant and she’s full of great insights and optimisms and I give [Victoria] a phone call about 2-4 times a week now,” Oliver said about Kilby.

Oliver reads Victoria stories, poems; anything to distract from the current negative news cycle.

“It helps kind of digest the day a little bit,” said Oliver.

Today, the two played a game that involved naming different countries in alphabetical order.

Oliver says it’s all about keeping the conversation going and having something to look forward to.

“It gives me something to pick-up on the next time we have a phone call together,” she said.

Although the program is set-up to help isolated seniors, Oliver says the phone calls also provide her with a nice escape from the pandemic.

“It helps me to stop reading COVID-19 news and to focus on something optimistic and also building a relationship with somebody who’s more harshly impacted by COVID,” she said, adding. “It takes me out of my own situation and just focuses on someone who’s more vulnerable in the community.”

For anyone interested in volunteer opportunities, or if you’re a senior looking to connect with someone, please visit



Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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