By Yana Fedyanova
Four Centretown-based community organizations are launching new initiatives to target social isolation among senior citizens, with federal funding provided through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre and nearby Centretown Community Health Centre on Cooper Street, Jaku Konbit — a Bronson Centre-based advocacy and service organization for Black Canadians — and the Somerset West Community Health Centre on Eccles Street in Chinatown are among the recipients of a share of more than $200,000 in federal funding direct to the local area.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, also the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, said the New Horizons for Seniors Program provides grants for projects led or inspired by seniors who want to make a difference in their community.
“Through this program, our government is helping seniors in Ottawa Centre maintain social ties and share their knowledge, skills, and experience through volunteerism, mentorships, and other social activities,” said McKenna.
The OCCSC is receiving funds for courses that teach Chinese-Canadian seniors the English language and computer skills. The program specifically targets seniors who have been living in Canada for some time and aren’t eligible for similar programs because they’re not considered “newcomers.”
Rupert Yeung, client services manager for the community centre, said the courses are a good way to inform seniors about activities happening in their community.
“They have a chance to get together and to build some social connections so that they wont become so isolated,” said Yeung. “We believe when people are more active, they tend to be happier, and they wont become depressed since the winter season is so long. We want seniors to become more active.”
Yeung said the community centre targets a lot of Chinese seniors living in high rises in the downtown area. The OCCSC is expecting about 40 seniors to take part in the program, which is scheduled to begin in March and will run for a year.
The Ottawa Senior Pride Network, an initiative that grew out of the Centretown Community Health Centre, will be using the $25,000 grant it received to host a conference in celebration of its ten-year anniversary.
“They plan on running the conference to celebrate the work that they’ve done, but also to encourage new people to join the movement, and to also look where they want to go now,” said Janis Dhal, health promoter at the CCHC.
The OSPN creates services, programs and workshops for LGBT seniors in the Ottawa area, including 650 registered network members.
The network hosted a conference in 2010 through which various sub-committees were created to help LGBT seniors with end-of-life care, housing services and social services.
Dhal said many LGBT seniors experience isolation for many reasons, some of which are general to senior citizens, but others specific to their sexual orientation.
“Having come from generations where it was criminalized for many years, a lot of folks still experience the impacts of that,” said Dhal. “They’re even more isolated and are feeling more afraid about having to go into a care home and not getting a good reception.”
The New Horizons for Seniors Program was created by Employment and Social Development Canada to spark the creation of community initiatives to improve the lives of seniors, and to address issues specific to senior Canadians.
Community-based projects can receive up to $25,000 in grant funding per project for the duration of a year, and nation-wide projects are eligible to receive up to $750,000 for as long as three years.