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Moving exhibition pays tribute to the long-term care residents lost during the pandemic

The project hones in on the individual elders who navigated isolation and sickness in care homes.
Exhibition COVID in the House of Old pays tribute to the elderly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic while in care homes throughout the country.

It was in March 2020 when a resident of a care home in North Vancouver's Lynn Valley, a man in his 80s, became the first in the country to lose life as a result of COVID-19

Now, more than two years on, an exhibition dedicated to this man and the thousands of other seniors who fell victim to the pandemic during that time has laid roots at the North Vancouver District public library. 

The exhibit – located mere minutes from the Lynn Valley Care Centre the man had called home – focuses on the elderly who died or endured months of isolation as a result of the virus's rapid spread through long-term care facilities. 

“Many Canadians do not know that 82 per cent of our deaths in the first wave of the pandemic were residents in facilities for older people," said the exhibit's curator, Megan J. Davies.

"So, there is a remembering and grieving in this exhibit – and there is also learning and a call for radically changing our elder-care system. This is a major issue of our time. Our parents, our children, and our future selves will judge us on the quality of our response.”

Named COVID in the House of Old, the exhibit comprises seven storytelling chairs that represent the elderly lives lost – each touching on powerful themes of grief, frustration, care and love.

‘Bob’s Chair’ greets guests by the entrance, where it sits alongside an array of personal items that pay tribute to his role as dearly loved husband, father, and grandfather.  A further six chairs located on the second floor of Lynn Valley Library dive into the deeply personal life stories of beloved members of communities across Canada.

Accompanying each chair is a QR code, with spoken stories on each individual. 

Jacqueline van Dyk, director of library services at NVDPL, said the exhibit invites reflection and contemplation on the pandemic, and how it may have impacted those within local communities. 

“Our libraries are all about people, places, and stories," she said. 

"This exhibit invites us to look beyond statistics and connect with the personal stories of these seven individuals, and reflect on how the pandemic affected our own lives and those in our community."

Around for just a little while longer, COVID in the House of Old is exhibiting at Lynn Valley Library until Oct. 19. More information on the exhibition, including educational resources on COVID-19, can be found online at the exhibition's website

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.