read the full story
read the full story
The Bleecker/Wellesley Activity Network services seniors 55+ and disabled who live far under the poverty line and in social housing. Our senior socials started 31 yrs ago as a way to get the seniors that were shut-ins out of their homes and meet others their same age. Isolation was a major reason for starting this organization’s senior socials.
As our senior socials grew in numbers so did our organization. We started small programs/projects and had more meals. It was an opportunity to meet neighbours and others. It helped develop friendships and helped break isolation.
Isolation is always a factor for seniors living in social housing as many are afraid to go out into community. The City of Toronto forces them to live in areas of the city where drug crimes are prevalent. They have no choice. They live on a paltry pension of approx. $1400 a month (Old Age Pension/CPP/Supplement) or if under 65, live on ODSP which is around $800 monthly. There is no choice where you live other than the street. Many of our seniors also have no family or have family living continents away.
The seniors and disabled that we serve in our development (St. James Town – Canada’s largest apt. complex) are finding Covid-19 a stifling challenge to live through. They are already facing isolation and Covid-19 has been testing their limits. Isolation is huge now as they don’t feel safe going out, even to the grocery store, and miss the friends they were meeting up with a few times a month when we had our sit-in meals. The isolation has been terrible to watch. They are facing depression. Some who have never had it before are not used to the constant sadness. Those who have a history of depression are now facing it at a much higher degree. We have given them information about over-the-phone counselling services that are free but there isn’t much else we can do to aid in their mental health other than show up at their door with hot delicious meals. When we call them they talk about how lonely and scared they feel. They all say they have never seen anything like this and that what they see on the news is frightening. I tell them to stop watching the news except maybe once a day and to try to not focus on the virus.
When we suspended our sit-in meals because of COVID-19, we got calls and inquiries. What were they going to do? How about their meals with us? What about their programs, especially their free fresh produce project which gives them a week’s worth of fresh produce at the end of the month when they are most likely to have nothing in the fridge? The first meal and veggie project bags, we were able to allow them to pick it up but that came to an abrupt stop. They were feeling the isolation more and more and we knew we couldn’t stop everything. So, I put out an online “alert” advertisement for volunteers to do deliveries to our seniors and we received over 70 applications! It was incredible. From that week on we have been blessed with these wonderful people who come and help get everything ready and deliver all the meals and veggie project bags to our seniors and the disabled.
I get calls every time from the seniors and they all have two things in common: 1. How thrilled they are to get their hot meal and their veggie bags and 2. How they love the volunteers that come by to deliver food to them. Many times I listen to voicemails from happy folks telling me how kind the volunteer was and how lovely it was to just have a few words with them. It makes them feel like they are not so alone and that someone out there still really does care. 🙂