Students launch a hotline with jokes, stories and support for isolated seniors

Teacher Jamie Anderson (center) and students of Ever Active Schools in Calgary, Canada, discuss how to launch a hotline for lonely senior citizens. By Christopher Dawson, CNN

(CNN) -- High school kids in Calgary, Canada came up with a way to help lonely senior citizens isolated by the coronavirus pandemic.

They call it the Joy 4 All Project. By dialing 1-877-JOY-4ALL (1-877-569-4255), callers can hear pre-recorded, continuously updated messages tailored for the elderly and the isolated.

"These are jokes, poems, and messages of positivity," Katie Mahon, the project coordinator told CNN.

Mahon is an advisor with Ever Active Schools, an enrichment program that works with the Alberta school system. "This is content generated by children and youth to connect with seniors and those that feel isolated, to create a feeling of connection."

Bringing back the phone call

The teenagers who launched the hotline decided to go with an "old school technology" to make it easier for the older generations to participate.

"With the recognition that not everyone has access to smart devices and the internet, or the necessary technical skills, they chose the phone to bridge that gap with the seniors," Mahon explained.

People needing company can dial the number and then select the kind of message they want. The hotline is already receiving plenty of calls.

"We launched less than a week ago and have received more than 18 hundred phone calls, and it keeps climbing," Mahon said. "We have had more than 400 before lunch today!"

A call for submissions

To keep the content fresh for the length of the pandemic, the project is requesting children and teenagers send their own jokes, stories and encouragement for the elderly to the Joy 4 All website. These can be written or recorded in their voice for all to hear on the hotline.

Ali Ahmad, 16, was one of the first students to participate, in hopes of lightening the mood for those in isolation.

"Through this project, we will be able to show our appreciation to people who are self-isolating," Ahmed shared in the launch announcement. "And give them something they can always look forward to in their day."

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