When the Rev. Canon Derwyn Shea visited his wife in palliative care at Grace Hospital in Toronto, he saw that she avidly watched a television channel that broadcast local programs and pictures set to music. The channel was operated by the hospital, available to patients throughout the building.
“As the brain cancer took her away from me, it became very important to her,” he says. “When I saw the comfort she received from it, it really impacted me.”
During one of his visits, he had an idea. A similar channel would work well at St. Hilda’s Towers, the senior citizens’ complex in Toronto where he is the chief executive officer and incumbent of the church that is located in one of the buildings.
“I realized I needed to bring a channel like that to St. Hilda’s,” he says. “We have a wonderful facility that really takes care for its residents, and I wanted to make sure that we added one more amenity.”
The church, also called St. Hilda’s, received a $20,000 grant from the diocese’s Our Faith-Our Hope campaign to get the channel off the ground. Together with funds from the federal government, Canon Shea and his team set up a broadcast centre, had cable and other infrastructure installed throughout the complex and bought video cameras.
The channel will be available in all 500 rooms and the church, reaching between 450 to 500 people, many of them Anglicans. There will be a mix of programs, including worship services and specials events from the church, and presentations from the staff on things like cooking, health, fitness and medicine. Entertainment will be provided by the residents and outside groups.
Most of the programs will be taped in the broadcast booth or the church, but a mobile camera will allow shows to be filmed elsewhere as well, including outdoor events like barbecues.
Canon Shea expects the channel to go live soon. In the meantime, a couple of test broadcasts have been well received. “People are getting very enthusiastic about it,” he says. “They have a sense that this will bring together the community even more. Very often the only place we come together is at special activity events and mealtimes. Now here’s a chance to have activities sent directly to people’s rooms. It’s especially important for those who are unable to get out because of physical challenges.”
The channel’s arrival is timely, as St. Hilda’s plans to create new space for people with dementia and those who require palliative care. “It will be available in their rooms and they can see what’s happening in the community,” he says.
Two senior citizens’ buildings across the road from St. Hilda’s have expressed interest in receiving the channel. For now, however, Canon Shea and his team are focusing on the getting it launched. “I’m very appreciative of the diocese and the federal government for the funding that has allowed us to get it underway,” he says.