Everyone knows that the pandemic’s hit hardest among seniors; not only are they afflicted with the same feelings of loneliness and isolation like all of us have been during quarantine, but for months they had to be doubly cautious as the age group most afflicted by the ravages of COVID-19. Perhaps access and new activities will help our seniors, at least that’s the goal with new Federal funding for nine local seniors programs.
On Tuesday morning, Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield announced that nine Guelph groups would be receiving $176,657 from the Federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, which offers $60.8 million in funding for over 3,000 community-based projects to support seniors across Canada.
According to the Federal government, the selected projects will help promote, “social inclusion, engagement among seniors and other generations as well as involving our community in the prevention of elder abuse, and supporting the financial empowerment of seniors and combatting ageism.”
“New Horizons supports projects that really make a difference in the lives of seniors and their communities,” said Longfield. “It creates opportunities where seniors can share knowledge, skills, and experience to the benefit of others, and it also adds energy to our community so we all benefit by having seniors active and involved.”
Health services, faith groups, community organizations, and retirement homes were among the recipients of the grant money. Some of the winning projects focused on connection and keeping seniors engaged with each other and the rest of their support systems, while other entries focused on activities that gets seniors involved in an activity or exercise to keep them active.
The Guelph Community Health Centre will use their funding to get more seniors involved in their emergency food delivery program. Gavin Dandy, who is the manager of the SEED project, said that seniors are an invaluable volunteer resource in all capacities of the work at the SEED.
“We find that the seniors we already have doing the work here are really, really rewarded by the experience, and they contribute so much to what we do,” Dandy said. “Whether it’s helping in the warehouse, or helping in the kitchen to make meals, or helping to do the actual deliveries, we have seniors playing all those roles, and it really adds value for everyone else on our team because they bring so much. It’s a real privilege to be able to engage with them.”
The Priory Park Baptist Church will be using their funds to help build accessible gardens and pathways so that seniors can more easily engage their green thumbs.
“Raised beds will be built to facilitate guarding by seniors with physical limitations, accessible pathways to the church parking lot into the garden will be constructed, and the fence and gates will be replaced to enhance safety and security,” explained Sue Woodward, who co-ordinates the activities in the community garden at the church.
“Improved access will allow seniors to benefit in other ways, including enjoyment of the outdoor environment – which is so important in our current situation – socializing, observing the gardening activity, reminiscing and offering advice from previous gardening experience to younger people,” Woodward added.
The Guelph Wellington Seniors Association will create a media studio that will make it easier to produce virtual workshops and instructional videos to allow seniors to better participate in activities. GWSA board president Becky Fiedler said that many seniors have become tech savvy in the course of the pandemic, but there are other seniors that can still use some help to get savvier.
“Most of our members seem to have internet access and can participate in activities via Zoom, but few have the capability for onscreen demonstrations, so we’re setting up a low-cost studio for live streaming or recording demonstrations for activity groups,” Fiedler said. “This will enable close-up and overhead demonstrations for arts and crafts groups like quilting, watercolors, and photography. We’ll also be able to do virtual rehearsals or instruction for choir and ukulele, as well as physical activities, such as exercise classes and line dancing.”
There are the other six recipients and their projects:
- St. George’s Church – senior tech lending project will support virtual social gatherings through book clubs and religious services
- St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation – will provide peer support and mentoring to improve social participation of seniors with dementia
- Stone Lodge Retirement Residence – will participate in connection of seniors via phone and letter packages for isolated seniors
- City of Guelph – will organize bike rides through trails and on road to promote social and physical participation of seniors
- Church of the Apostles – will support social participation and inclusion of seniors through virtual church services
- Guelph Chinese Canadian Cultural group – will host activity workshops to promote social inclusion and mental health wellness for seniors
All the projects approved Tuesday filed their applications last October. The community-based programs were eligible for up to $25,000 in funding, with an additional $5,000 available to groups who have not received funding from New Horizons in the last five years.