Empowering seniors

  • May 10, 2013

TORONTO - Last year, volunteers at the Society of Sharing donated 20,000 hours of their time to ensure isolated and marginalized seniors and adults with disabilities felt a little less alone.

An agency of Catholic Charities for seniors, the Society of Sharing provides home visits, escorts for medical and shopping trips and telephone calls to seniors to provide friendship and medication reminders. There’s also a socialization program where seniors can connect with one another.

“They feel less isolated because we connect them and make these social connections,” said executive director Mariza Garcia.

“Our volunteers go and visit them and sometimes that’s the only person that will come for social visits.”

At Les Centres d’Accueil Héritage — an agency that provides support services and housing to sick, elderly and disabled members of the Francophone community — the focus is also on empowering seniors.

“We are the only community support services agency that offers services in French in the whole GTA,” said executive director Isabelle Girard.

Their services include an adult day program and housing with personal support 24/7, home help, which includes light housecleaning, transportation to appointments and shopping, and companionship.

The seniors who live in the affordable housing building in downtown Toronto have a comfortable and secure place to call home, said Girard.

“There is this Francophone island in Toronto so they feel like they’re in a familiar setting… And for a lot of them, they wouldn’t be able to remain independent and living alone if it weren’t for these services.”

Along similar lines, another agency of Catholic Charities, the LA Centre for Active Living (Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors), provides continuing care and independent living for seniors in Toronto.

For Providence Healthcare — which offers rehabilitation for patients who are recovering from strokes and falls as well as providing a 288-bed long-term care facility — the emphasis is on a holistic approach to care, said Astrida Plorins, administrator for the Houses of Providence.

“During the week, we offer Mass every day at 10 o’clock and that is extremely well-attended,” said Plorins, who adds that two-thirds of its residents are Catholic. Providence also offers leisure activities to complement various departments that tend to the physical needs of residents, such as physiotherapy.

Harry Lynch, spiritual and religious care manager, says the transition to living at Providence can be a very hard adjustment for seniors. But coming from neighbourhoods where the parish is the “centre of life,” they are often thrilled to discover daily Mass where they can receive the Eucharist.

“It’s during this time of adjustment that they are able to touch the core of what is important to them,” said Lynch.

Founded more than 150 years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph in collaboration with Bishop Armand Charbonnel, Providence is still living its mission of being a place of welcome for those in need, said Sr. Mary Anne McCarthy.

“We live our mission of being open and welcoming and healing through our values,” she said. “From the board members to the CEO to every employee and volunteer, we respond with compassion and care.”

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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