Online videos urge Chinese seniors in Edmonton to take precautions during pandemic

All Albertans are working to understand the restrictions and warnings around COVID-19 but it’s a particular challenge to those for whom English isn’t their first language.

To help Chinese senior citizens get the message, an Edmonton doctor has created a series of five videos about coronavirus for the Chinatown Multi-Level Care Foundation, which operates two seniors housing complexes.

The videos, narrated in Cantonese by Dr. Bing Li, discuss everything from what to do when self-isolating to who should wear a facial mask and why. 

‘Get the correct information out’ 

“I feel that it’s my duty,” said Li, a geriatric specialist in Edmonton for the last 20 years. 

“I think we all need to work together to control this situation, the best way to do that is to get the information out — get the correct information out,” he added.

For some Edmonton Chinese seniors, understanding all the news about COVID-19 in English is the biggest challenge of all.  

There are 180 seniors living at the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre and the Edmonton Chinese Seniors Lodge just east of downtown. Countless others live on their own elsewhere in the community. 

Two residents, 89-year-old KC Yiu and his 86-year-old wife Mary, saw the videos as soon as they came out. 

The seniors understand English but said hearing the message in Cantonese from Li brought them better clarity around the importance of doing things like washing hands and self-isolating.

“We are not panicking,” said KC Yiu. “We feel comfortable because we have good people like Dr. Li and  Alberta Health Services looking after us and delivering the messages to us on time.”   

Mary added she was reassured at hearing from a doctor. “I think his instructions carry more weight. He’s very serious.” she said about the videos.

‘Parents don’t necessarily listen’

The elderly couple say they’re both practising social distancing and other precautionary measures.

A series of Cantonese-language videos about COVID-19, produced by the Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre, have been uploaded to Facebook for Chinese seniors to view. (MIn Dhariwal/CBC)


Their daughter, Winnie Yiu-Young, is the only person they interact with. She comes to her parents home a couple of times a week to put them through workouts to keep them active.  

She said Li’s video help take the pressure off her to instruct her parents on how to act.

“Parents don’t necessarily listen to their children,” Yiu-Young said with a laugh. 

“He comes in as the expert in the field,” she said. “And also, speaking the mother-tongue makes a big difference for those who don’t speak English.”  

Donald Yu, with the Care Centre board, said the centre decided to create videos so that seniors would know what was going on and — more importantly — what’s expected. 
“As you know, there’s so many different media and different information,” Yu said. “It’s so important that we have to understand what the message is coming from AHS and also the Alberta government.” 

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