Twice a month, Brenda Taylor spreads out her bingo cards on the living-room coffee table, picks up the phone and gets ready to play.

It’s a routine she’s been enjoying for a number of years – telephone bingo from the comforts of home.

The games are offered through a program called Senior Centre Without Walls – an initiative of A&O Support Services for Older Adults located in Winnipeg.

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There are about 70 regulars like Brenda who play telephone bingo. They get patched into a teleconference and experience the game as a group – even though they live all across the Manitoba.

“We’ve got groups in Churchill, Eriksdale, Swan River, Beausejour and other parts of Manitoba,” Lydia Roberston, Program Assistant for A & O: Support Services for Older Adults explains.

The small, portable bingo cage sits on Roberston’s desk as she turns the handle to dispense the game balls.

That, along with a hands-free phone and computer is all she needs to operate the game.

Most of the registered players call the toll free number and enter their code before the session. Those who can’t, receive a call from Robertson.

There aren’t any big jackpots to be won. It’s the camaraderie that draws players in.

“They’re interacting with one another. They might be lonely. They may not be speaking to a lot of people. It may be hard for them to get out,” Robertson says.

The Senior Centre Without Walls doesn’t just offer bingo games. It offers 60 different programs throughout the day by phone, Monday to Friday.

“We offer educational presentations. We tour different museums like the Manitoba museum. We do health and wellness. We offer art therapy, music therapy, meditation all over the phone,” Michelle Ranville, manager of community services at A & O: Support Services for Older Adults explains.

She first learned about the concept after hearing of a similar program in the United States. In 2009 Senior Centre Without Walls was launched in Winnipeg and then across the province a year later.

“I thought if a program could be popular in California then imagine what it would be like in our Manitoba winters,” Ranville says.

About 150 seniors in Manitoba are registered for the free programming.

Taylor participates in several of them regularly.

“Each one of us knows that at around 10 in the morning there will be somebody on the other end of the phone. You’ve got a reason to get up in the morning,” Taylor says.

Many of the people who present programs are volunteers.

New event calendars are released every four months. The next one starts in September and runs until the end of December.

Global News Anchor Heather Steele and I (Eva Kovacs) will be calling the Bingo games in September. For more information on Senior Centre Without Walls is available online or by calling A&O at 204-956-6440.

Better Winnipeg is a weekly feature that focuses on people and events that make Winnipeg better. If you have suggestions for stories, send them to [email protected]杭州丝足.

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