At 76-years-old, retired Nanaimo counsellor Bernie Dunning has been volunteering to talk to other seniors through the hardest days of their lives.

He is one of the people with Nanaimo Family Life counselling others though the unprecedented stresses of COVID-19 that has left many seniors more vulnerable to physical, mental and financial abuse than they have ever been in their lives.

“It becomes kind of a lifeline,” said Dunning.

“Even if the person has a way of just relieving whatever is happening that day. Talking about it is a release of stress.”

Nanaimo Family Life is offering telephone outreach to seniors across the mid Island, with the friendly voice of a volunteer to give them a link outside their homes, since many seniors groups and centres are closed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“What we’re seeing is caregivers, everybody is under a tremendous amount of pressure right now,” said Nanaimo Family Life Association’s Executive Director Deborah Hollins.

“And that with the lack of supports within our community where seniors can actually go and feel safe and be taken care of, can be heard, that pressure is mounting and mounting,” she said.

According to the BC Seniors Advocate, there needs to be greater awareness and support for seniors that are at risk.

“It’s the totality of this COVID-19 experience,” said bc Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

“There’s a lot of financial stress on families and they may be looking to the seniors in their life to address those financial issues.  And that may result in some financial harm to the seniors.”

Skye Ryan