Social Inclusion

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Social Inclusion

Good Companions, Seniors’ Centre Without Walls

Photo of woman talking on a phone.

According to the Government of Canada’s Report on the Social Isolation of Seniors,   there is a substantial amount of evidence that describes the relationship between health and social isolation.

Mobility constraints can make it challenging for some to leave their home. This can lead to loneliness and isolation. Good Companions Seniors’ Centre Without Walls is a service that connects those are homebound and who cannot get to programs at the Centre, both seniors 55 years and older and adults 18 years and older with physical disabilities, through free interactive telephone-based programs. Seniors' Centre Without Walls gives those who are homebound the chance to connect with others and also to learn through information sessions delivered over the phone.

Seniors’ Centre Without Walls is a teleconferencing program that provides participants with the opportunity to access a variety of programs.  Participants can obtain essential health-related information by directly accessing and speaking to professionals within their community; they can engage in brain-stimulating activities, and in later-life-learning opportunities. Most importantly, the program provides participants with a sense of being a part of a community, and the opportunity to create new and meaningful friendships.

Laura Ward, the Seniors Centre Without Walls Program Coordinator, says: “My favourite part is when participants share ideas and experiences with each other and they learn from each other. They ask for advice and find peers who have had similar experiences with knowledge that they can share. I love to be able to help bring people together and to see (hear) new connections being formed.”

Photo of woman in wheelchair

According to the 2013 Canadian Survey on Disability, just over a third of Canadians aged 65 and older are living with a disability. Disabilities can further marginalize people putting them at greater risk of isolation.

The program started five years ago, in April of 2014, but the idea for the program came several years before that. The coordinator for Good Companions Community Support Services Department noticed that there was a gap in services being offered for homebound seniors and adults with disabilities who were experiencing loneliness and isolation. Although there are great services that exist which target isolation in Ottawa, such as the Friendly Visiting program where a volunteer visits the home of the individual receiving service every other week for 1.5 to 2 hours, and phones on alternate weeks, there can be long waitlists. There is also the Telephone Assurance Program (TAP) which matches isolated seniors with a volunteer who will check-in via a telephone call at a scheduled time to ensure the client is well. Good Companions found that either people wanted to have longer conversations or that to some the intimacy of the one-on-one visits could be intimidating. Hence, Good Companions recognized the need for more social interaction for homebound seniors and started to research options. They found DOROT, a non-profit organization in the States whose goal is to alleviate social isolation and provide concrete services to older adults including offering university courses by phone. Good Companions applied for and received a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and began Seniors’ Centre Without Walls in 2014.

Alice L. is a legally blind senior who participates in many Seniors Centre Without Walls phone conversations. She says that over the years she’s gotten really close to a lot of people and that the program truly makes a difference: “it’s amazing, if someone’s feeling down and they mention it, you can make it better for them. Most of the time we have lots of fun and lots of laughs”.

Participants can join a phone conversation multiple times a week or a few programs per programming calendar. The telephone sessions cover a wide range of topics including health and wellness, informational sessions, travelogues, musical entertainment, special celebrations, word games, trivia, discussion groups…and much more! Laura shares that, “Some people are looking for information and to get connected with professionals in the community to ask questions; we can provide that. Most people are looking for friendly people to talk to, the opportunity to share their ideas, and a feeling of connectedness with the community; they can find that too”. Session presenters range from volunteers sharing travel experiences, to dieticians talking about the new food guide, to lawyers and accountants discussing estate planning and managing finances in retirement. There’s a Seniors’ Centre Without Walls planning committee so participants are actively involved in planning the programming that meets their needs. Check out the Fall 2019 program guide or visit www.thegoodcompanions.ca for more information on programs offered over the phone.

Individuals 55+ or adults 18+ with physical disabilities living in the Ottawa and greater Ottawa area are eligible to join. There is no charge for the program, all you need is phone! Register as a program participant by phone at 613-236-0428 ext. 2323, in person at The Good Companions or by email at scww@thegoodcompanions.ca

Aging Well Together: Social Inclusion / Bien vieiller ensemble: l'inclusion socialeby hbsr

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Credits

  • Music: "The Cast and Favor" and “Game Hens” from Blue Dot Sessions
  • Photo: Photo of older adult in purple shirt by Akshar Dave on Unsplash.
  • Video: World Health Organization (WHO). (Apr 4, 2017). WHO: Let’s talk about depression – focus on older people. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/DXZZcdFXTtY