Collaborative program keeps seniors connected to community
UJA Federation’s Seniors’ Task Force creates Healthy @ Home
According to geriatric specialists, living an isolated life, that is a life without connections to family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, carries the same risk of early death associated with smokers or those who are severely obese.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto created the Seniors’ Task Force, chaired by Lionel Robins, to find creative ways to keep our seniors healthier and happier and in their own homes longer.
The Task Force, comprised of a number of talented and committed volunteers and staff agencies that serve seniors, quickly paid dividends to the community by creating several initiatives, the cornerstone of which is Healthy @ Home.
Responding to the growing number of seniors across the GTA – many of whom are isolated because of either low-income, frailty or the fact that they are newcomers – Healthy @ Home creates supportive communities, bringing social, recreational, educational, cultural and health programs to where seniors live. The hope is that the program will keep seniors healthier and stimulated, thus preventing premature onset of depression and other ailments, delay institutionalization and allow them to remain active members of the community.
Phase I of Healthy @ Home introduced the program to apartments on the Bathurst Street corridor, between Steeles and Lawrence. Last week, Phase II was launched in York Region with participants enjoying a healthy lunch, program orientation, music and dancing. Nearly 300 seniors have benefited so far.
“I didn’t want to get involved in something just for the sake of being involved, I wanted to get involved in something that I have a chance to make better,” explains Robins, who is no stranger to communal involvement thanks to his efforts on behalf of UJA Federation, the Bernard Betel Centre and Princess Margaret Hospital, to name but a few. “But the real motivation for me to become involved was because of what I saw happen to my mother. At one time, she was the most upbeat person, but she was ultimately put into a much smaller, more isolated environment and went downhill quickly. But, when I would take her up to the lake on weekends, where she sat, chatting with others, she was her old self again. It was like Jekyll and Hyde.”
The program is delivered by a collaborative group of Jewish agencies including the Bernard Betel Centre (as the lead agency), Baycrest, the Jewish Russian Community Centre and JIAS Toronto. Funds for the program come from multiple sources including UJA Federation, the Bernard Betel Centre, the Pearl Langer Fund and the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto. Healthy @ Home is operated efficiently because of in-kind contributions and volunteers who assist with the program.
“I find this whole experience so fulfilling, personally,” says Robins. “Especially now, as I see the resources we have, the needs that are out there, and the people we have on board who are meeting those needs, I believe we are on the right track. We have a lot of great people collaborating for the greater good, we have a great process in place, and, like a snowball rolling down a hill, we continue to gain more momentum and we continue to transform many lives for the better.”
“As the convener of the Seniors’ Task Force, we are excited to see the combined skills of our community’s great seniors’ agencies, and our passionate lay leaders, come together to create initiatives such as Healthy at Home,” said Ted Sokolsky, President & CEO, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. “I am confident that these talented and motivated individuals will continue to make great strides in ensuring that our seniors live their lives with the respect and dignity they deserve.”