Ottawa grandmother helps seniors beat isolation blues one sip at a time

OTTAWA — An Ottawa grandmother is hosting virtual cocktail hours to help those dealing with isolation during the pandemic. 

Donna Calcutt-Andrew is 82-years-old and is the creator of “Cocktails with Grandma,” a virtual meetup paired with a cocktail hour.

This summer, medical conditions and a hospital stay forced Calcutt-Andrew to make the difficult decision to move out of her apartment of 31 years and move in with her daughter’s family.

“I realized I wouldn’t thrive if I went home. It was a big adjustment,” Calcutt-Andrew says. 

During the pandemic, Calcutt-Andrew felt lonely and isolated from others. She discovered “Bar from a Far,” a company that ships cocktail ingredients to make at home. Her daughter, Roshene Lawson decided to connect her mother up with a Zoom account, so she could enjoy a cocktail and chat with friends. 

Cocktails with Grandma

“It just took off. There must be a lot of people who are needing this kind of light hearted adventure and this time which is so, so, so difficult,” said Calcutt-Andrew, who has also created an Instagram account.

Lawson says, “She is still finding joy and purpose in life, she hasn’t given up, at lot of people who have given up and gone sour, mom is trying to find the joy, and that just makes me so proud of her.”

The meetings vary in number of participants, or length, and Calcutt-Andrew says they are open to anyone who needs someone to talk to.

“There is something too about a grandma… everyone has an experience with a grandma,” said Calcutt-Andrew, who has drinks every Friday night with former colleagues, calling themselves “The Friday Nellies.””

Calcutt-Andrew is also using her Zoom meeting to fundraise. This fall, in one night, she paired with a bartender in Washington D.C. to sell “Fauci Pouchies,” a special cocktail mix. She raised $2,200 for the Good Companion Seniors Centre, with the money helping seniors coping with isolation and loneliness. 

In the new year, she will also be working with Connected Canadians to help any seniors who are unsure of how to use Zoom. 

Connected Canadians CEO and co-founder Emily Jones Joanisse says more than ever, seniors are feeling isolated.

“Isolation is on ongoing issues for seniors, particularly in terms of digital technologies. It has been something that has been an issue long before the pandemic, the pandemic exacerbated this, it has made it much, much more of an issue than it ever was,” said Jones Joanisse.

Jones Joanisse says Calcutt-Andrew is making a big difference in the lives of many lonely seniors.

“I think it is amazing, I love it…It isn’t just about the technology, in fact it is not really about the technology at all, it is about the human connection the technology allows for, all of this is in an effort to help people connect with people.””

If people are interested in joining Cocktails with Grandma, Calcutt-Andrew is planning to hold a Zoom cocktail hour for seniors. Anyone interested in joining could email Roshene Lawson at

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