The recently established Buddy Services Centre for Seniors in Toronto has received a grant of $25,000 from the Emergency Community Support Fund (COVID-19 ECSF) to help fulfill the needs of the “vulnerable population” in the O’Connor-Parkview community during the current global pandemic, says a news release from the Centre.
The release notes that the community houses a wide range of residents, including seniors, immigrants, and visible minorities living in poverty and that adults who earn less than $30,000 annually or have a fixed income and are 55-years and older are eligible to receive the services provided by the Centre.
Trinidad-born Carol Royer, Founder and Executive Director of the Centre, said, “many elderly persons in the community are diagnosed with cancer, AIDS, or has mental health issues which make it difficult for them to run simple errands like grocery shopping or get to doctors’ offices”.
Companionship, transportation to and from appointments and community activities, assistance with meal planning and preparation and personal care support are among the services provided by the Centre, the release says.
Over the next few weeks, staff from the Centre will meet with seniors in the community to inform them of the services available and “assist them in the qualification process.,” the release notes.
“It is one thing to be alone, and another to be lonely!”
The Buddy Services Centre for Seniors has received a $25,000 grant from the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) to fulfill the vulnerable populations’ needs in the O’Connor-Parkview neighborhood.
This community houses a wide range of residents, ranging from seniors, immigrants, and visible minorities with some living in dire poverty. There are many elderly adults who are diagnosed with cancer, AIDS, or have metal health issues, which makes it difficult for them to run simple errands like: grocery shopping, navigating to doctors’ offices, and doing things that others may take for granted.
Adults whose income is less than $30,000 a year, have a fixed income, and are 55-years and older and reside in the O’Connor-Parkview neighborhood are eligible to receive the services made possible by Buddy Services Centre for Seniors.
Residents will have access to: companionship, transportation to and from appointments and community activities, assistance with meal planning and preparation, and personal care support.
In the weeks to come, Buddy Services Centre for Seniors staff will: start connecting with the seniors in the community, informing them of the services, and assisting elderly adults in the qualification process for the buddy services to help reduce the effects of social isolation. Meanwhile the Canadian government has invested $350 million to improve community organizations’ ability to serve vulnerable Canadian during this crisis.
Buddy Services was founder by Carol Royer out of a need to take care of her sick mother, Royer has turned her talents into organization to help the disenfranchised.
Toronto Caribbean newspaper had a conversation with Royer about her tireless work and her passion for helping the poor. Royer said, “It started in 2017 when my mom had a stroke, her health declined and then she had a second stroke in 2018, which left her unable to walk. That is when I had to take care of her. While doing that I began to document my experiences, and after a while, I said gosh! This looks like a business plan.”
The world’s new normal is physical and social distancing, which means staying at home as much as possible. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has overcome the world spreading viciously and faster than any virus or disease our modern world has experienced. Physical distancing is necessary right now, but it’s increased anxiety, social isolation, depression.
It is especially difficult for those who are struggling with physical and mental health disorders. “As social beings, we are biologically hardwired to connect. Research shows supportive networks can decrease our heart rate and help us process difficult emotions,” says couples and family counsellor Carole Sandy.
My grandma was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which quickly left her unable to care for herself and live independently with my eighty-six-year-old grandfather anymore. She moved into a nursing home in February after living with my grandpa for over sixty-two years, and my grandpa temporarily moved into Princess Margaret hospital to undergo radiation treatment for head cancer. All nursing homes and hospitals are closed for visits, leaving my grandparents separated and isolated while battling health conditions. I am sure my grandma is unable to understand or remember why no one is allowed to visit her and probably thinks we have abandoned her. To help myself and my grandparents disrupt the thoughts associated with social isolation while still practicing physical distancing, here are eight tips I came up with along with Carole to help us successfully adapt to our changing society.
It may seem obvious, but call or video call your friends and family. Before physical and social distancing, we had the excuse of being too busy to call and catch up regularly with friends and family. Most people relied heavily on social media to stay up to date with friends and family’s lives. With social and physical distancing in strict effect, use your extra time to call and have a conversation with a loved one. Avoid texting and get back to the old school method of communicating. Many older adults appreciate and enjoy receiving phone calls and don’t like texts and emails. Schedule weekly family video, phone or three-ways calls to stay connected to your loved ones. Include your favorite snacks, drinks and most comfortable outfit. Now is the time to create new social traditions, connect with your loved ones on a deeper level and create lasting memories.
Write a letter or send greeting cards. I recently began handwriting letters to my grandma at her nursing home. Canada Post is considered an essential service and is still picking up and delivering mail across Canada. My grandma doesn’t have a phone in her room at the nursing home and does not have a cell phone so connecting with her has proved difficult. I write her letters updating her on the Coronavirus. I also include photographs and my son’s drawings in our letters as a special touch. Writing letters allows our family and friends to experience physical contact while still adhering to the physical distancing rules.
Window visits. We are all encouraged to stay at home, but if you live alone and have a family or friend who lives nearby, try planning a window or distant visit. I have watched touching videos where people are socializing from a distance to celebrate milestone occasions or bring comfort to a loved one. My son and I recently saw some school friends while on a walk. To adhere to the physical distancing rules, we gave each other air hugs from a distance and talked to each other from a range of six feet. With all social gatherings cancelled until June 30th, 2020, people have become creative in developing tactics to follow the physical distancing rule but still stay connected to their community. Window and distant visits disrupt the thoughts of loneliness and “I am the only one going through this.” Negative thoughts thrive in isolation; the key is physical distancing but not social isolation.
Attend online classes, meetings and parties. Many personal trainers, yoga teachers, DJs and influencers are offering online socializing to cope with the physical distancing. DJ Nice threw a successful online party where even Michelle Obama showed up! Ani O Yoga studio is offering free online kids yoga and meditation from April 9th-30th as well as virtual yoga and Pilates classes. Tray Arts is also hosting free virtual paint nights for families to spend time together. Many therapists have transitioned their services online as well as support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Set dates with friends and family to attend virtual classes or parties together.
Help the elderly with online transactions. Many seniors are accustomed to going into the bank to pay their bills and check their accounts. Setting up and paying bills, ordering groceries and supplies for seniors online will relieve the burden of the changes and chaos our society is facing. Seniors are very vulnerable to the Coronavirus and need the most assistance and protection at this time.
“Be intentional about your self- care. This might include spending time connecting and healing yourself, reducing your time on social media, doing something creative, reading affirmations, accepting your emotions, taking a bath or listening to your favorite artist; and asking yourself “have I been protecting myself from things that are increasing my anxiety or panic?” Now is a wonderful time to self-reflect on how you have treated yourself so far in 2020. What have you learned about yourself? What have you noticed is still getting in the way of your progress? And since you have been given the gift of time, be gentle and empathic toward yourself during this exercise” says Carole.
It is also a great time to dig into your family history and honor your elders. “There is a great family tree exercise that I incorporate into my family therapy practice. I encourage family members to work together to uncover family secrets, values, strengths and future goals to create a strong, unified identity. It also allows time for family members to share important memories that can be passed on to the next generation,” shares Carole.
Social distancing may have an emotional toll on you or your loved ones that can go undetected. Including online or phone therapy into your new social distancing schedule can help you and your family ensure open communication is developed or maintained during this time. Many people have said that they didn’t have the time for therapy or healing before. With all social activities shut down across the globe, there is no time better than the present to begin your healing journey. Therapy does not always have to be in person at an office. You can schedule one on one phone calls, video calls, and three-way calls for therapy sessions. Feel free to use the extra time in your schedule to better yourself and gain self-awareness.
This isn’t a competition of how much you can accomplish in quarantine. But it is a slight pause of life as we know it, and a chance to work on self-awareness and healing.
If you or a loved one is in need of elderly in-home services email [email protected]. Stay safe, stay home and help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
Is combatting social isolation a thing for seniors? In my twenties, I believed that my grandparents had nothing better to do with their time but complain that their grandchildren did not call them. Now that I’m in my thirties and a mother, I have come to understand the significance of regular human contact and how it directly affects one’s emotional well-being. Social isolation may be a trending topic, but it is a very real-life experience for many elderly individuals.
My grandparents came to Montreal, Canada, from the island of Trinidad and Tobago, in the early seventies. They moved to Ontario in the eighties and gave their lives to their jobs, their church community, and their families. When I was growing up, I noticed my grandparents didn’t have an active social life, but they weren’t loners either. They went to church every Sunday, and my grandfather sat on the board of directors at his church.
My grandfather retired before my grandmother and seemed pleased to have worked one job for thirty years and have the opportunity to retire. A short five years later, my grandmother retired, and the family came together to celebrate the milestone. Even though my grandparents both looked forward to retiring, neither of them had any post-retirement plans. When asked what they planned on doing with all their free time, I can’t recall them having much of an answer.
My grandparents have been retired for over fifteen years, and social isolation has become their new everyday reality. Their generation didn’t have the privilege to learn about living a purpose-driven life or discovering who you are outside of your family, community, and job. Both of my grandparents came from challenging situations growing up. Therefore, they had a different perspective on life than the rest of our family.
Social isolation “is a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. It differs from loneliness, which reflects a temporary and involuntary lack of contact with other humans in the world. Social isolation can be an issue for individuals of any age… Social isolation can include staying home for lengthy periods, having no communication with family, acquaintances or friends, and/or willfully avoiding any contact with other humans when those opportunities do arise.”
As my grandparents grew older, our family saw them less at family functions and holidays. My grandpa was unable to drive far distances or go upstairs because he has knee issues, so on most holidays; he was absent. My grandma would try to attend family gatherings, but as time went on, my grandparents were seen less and less and less.
Seventeen percent of the elderly community report being socially isolated and over forty percent of older adults experience loneliness. Social isolation has been linked to increased deaths, depression, dementia, and elder abuse. A McMaster University research article shared findings that “programs that were group-based, grounded in theory, and incorporated active input from participants and social support/activity appeared to provide the most benefit. Programs may help improve physical, mental (e.g. depression and mental well-being), and social (e.g. social support and loneliness) health in older adults who are or are thought to be lonely or socially isolated.” Attending activities and programs are some solutions to social isolation. But ensuring older adults are equipped with thought patterns that value the need for socialization, I believe, will be the solution for social isolation.
Buddy Services by Ekklesia Hub’s mission is to fill the gap where social isolation is concerned. Buddy Services provides meaningful, empathetic companionship and transportation services, to doctor appointments, community activities, running errands and family functions. After becoming the primary caregiver to my grandparents, my mom realized there were older adults in similar circumstances. It has been her mission for over one year now, to support vulnerable individuals within the greater Toronto area. Buddy Services support workers take notes when they attend doctors’ appoints with clients and relay all information to family members. Beyond a transportation service, Buddy Services, builds, nurtures and maintains relationships with clients, community organizations and healthcare practitioners.
Growing old is natural, as is the need for social interaction. As the baby boomer age, it is essential not to forget a whole generation. Life can get busy, and we may not have time to visit our older family members, but we do need to ensure their lives include meaningful engagement. This is how we combat social isolation.
For more information about Ekklesia Hub’s buddy service, please call or email (fill phone number and email address)
Written by: Kezia Royer Burkett a creative freelance writer with a degree in communications and multimedia from McMaster University. When she is not writing she is finding inspiration living life, raising her son and spending time with friends and family.