COVID-19: Diaries from Inside an Oshawa Retirement Residence High school student enters the front lines

Colt Young, 17, on his way to sanitize the hallways at Wynfield Retirement Residence.

This is part two of an ongoing series by Durham College journalism student Shanelle Somers, detailing her ‘other’ job, working in an Oshawa retirement residence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colt Young, 17, is not only a senior student at St. Stephen Catholic Secondary School but a health care worker amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year in March he began to work at Chartwell Wynfield Retirement Residence, a home to 103 elderly residents.

However, Young is not your average health care worker, his first job at Wynfield was to manage the sanitization of the building and to make sure all employees were equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) by managing the stock of inventory.

A critical job but rare but for a teenager to hold.

Typically, a job like this is usually held by a maintenance manager, facility manager, or a health and safety committee within the retirement industry. But at just the age of 17, Young successfully managed the position.

“When I walked into this, I thought I’m just doing general work and just sanitizing the building and being a grunt really,” says Young. “But when it was my second week, and I got told, hey, by the way, you’re in charge of where all the PPE is and if there’s a discrepancy, it’s on you.”

Young says being trusted with that amount of responsibility motivated him to make sure the building’s needs were met.

“I’ve heard of the horror stories of retirement homes going without, or with T-shirts wrapped around their face because they ran out of masks, because they have no one monitoring that,” he says. “There’s places where they’re using the same gloves between rooms, between days, because they ran out of gloves, and no one was monitoring it and I didn’t want that to happen here [at Wynfield].”

Young says he credits receiving the opportunity to work at the Wynfield to his mother, Mary Ann King. She is a housekeeper at the retirement residence and shared with Young how the retirement home was needing an extra hand amid new regulations and protocols set in place by public health, to protect the residents living at the Wynfield.

Colt Young, his mother Mary Ann King (middle), and other Wynfield employees bring smiles to elderly residents on crazy hat day during the pandemic.
Colt Young, his mother Mary Ann King (middle), and other Wynfield employees bring smiles to elderly residents on crazy hat day during the pandemic.

At the time Young says he did not know much about retirement living or the difference between long term care versus independent retirement living.

Although Young was hired as an extra hand he quickly became loved by all residents and staff members. Soon, he says, he was the designated person looking after the home’s most-prized possession, PPE. He was also responsible for keeping the building and all items which entered the building sanitized.

“God knows who’s touched it, god knows what they have, they could have COVID-19, they could just have a cold and it gets stuck on the box,” he says. “So, the reason that I’m so paranoid about sanitizing everything when it comes into the building is because of the fact that, that box could be the one box that doesn’t get sanitized that has COVID on it.”

Although, Young was an exceptional worker, the home could not afford to keep him as an extra hand, without going over the department’s budget. Young says he was notified he would no longer be able to work the job.

Young was disappointed but held out hope management would be able to bring him back to work in different role.

Today, he is currently working in the care department as a one-on-one care provider. He spends his day monitoring and being a friend to any residents in need.

Life as a student changed for Young when the COVID-19 virus hit, however, he says although it was disappointing knowing he was not going to get a prom or a graduation ceremony as planned, he enjoyed having the opportunity to work and make a difference during the pandemic.

In the future, Young plans on attending college – possibly Durham College – to learn.