Staying Active, Connected, and Safe
June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario, an opportunity to celebrate seniors and highlight the important contributions they make to our community. This year’s theme is ‘staying active, connected, and safe.’
There are many programs at Circle of Care that focus on helping our clients stay active, connected, and safe. Over the past year, our Volunteer Resources team has spearheaded and led many of these programs. Below, we’ve highlighted some of these programs and the impacts they’ve made on our clients.
Active Programming Brings Fun Outdoors
Earlier this year, as the weather warmed and pandemic restrictions lifted, Circle of Care re-launched our in-person, outdoor Light Stretching and Bocce program for the summer.
“Our clients expressed a desire for programming that involved exercising and doing something active. So, we thought of putting together a light exercise and bocce program for them,” says Devorah Bechimol, Program Coordinator.
The program launched last year during the summer time and received positive feedback from many clients. This year, the program was initially available once per week, but quickly expanded to three sessions per week with a maximum of 12 clients each day.
“It’s a huge hit with our clients,” says Devorah. “People like being outdoors, especially during the summer, and this program gives them the opportunity to be physically active as well.”
As the program is offered in-person, the health and safety of clients is paramount. Clients are expected to show their proof of vaccination and fill out a COVID-19 screening tool upon arrival. This extra precaution helps ensure clients can remain safe while in contact with other clients outside.
“It’s nice to meet in-person safely and see your friends each week,” says a Circle of Care client. “I appreciate the focus on remaining active. The light stretching really helps with my arms and my back as I sometimes have pain in those locations.”
This program will continue as long as the weather permits.
Offering a Connection in the Comfort of Their Own Homes
To counter the isolation faced by so many older adults as a result of cancelled in-person programs in 2020, Circle of Care staff developed online programs for clients to attend virtually and connect with one another, such as the ‘Let’s Get Connected’ program.
Launching in December 2020, this program offered an online space for older adults to connect with one another, fighting isolation during the pandemic – a time of physical disconnection.
“Our intention was to do a social Zoom program, where we could combine socialization and stimulation at the same time,” says Devorah.
The program first included brain teasers and online games for clients, with an occasional guest speaker, while also providing time for clients to socialize with one another online.
“It started off with a bang – which was fantastic! When it first launched, we had 15 people. Then after a few months, we started seeing growth in the number of participants each week, and soon after we had a consistent 35 clients every week,” says Devorah.
Though the program continues to have a consistent number of attendees, it was a challenge to transition some older adults to an online social program format. Some clients had limited access online, or lacked internet connection, which only increased isolation in those clients.
Devorah and other staff members connected with older adults through the phone and walked them through how to navigate Zoom and how to use the internet efficiently to remain connected during the pandemic. Isolated clients were given electronic tablets with an internet connection and an accessible and easy-to-use interface filled with customized apps and programs. Using the tablet, many clients were able to access and connect online to the ‘Let’s Get Connected’ program and other virtual Circle of Care programs and events.
“I consider this program a success not only because of the positive feedback we have received from clients, but also because I have been able to see our clients returning online over and over each week, often with a smile on their faces,” says Devorah. “This program has benefitted them, and I can see it working.”
Janet, a Circle of Care client, has enjoyed connecting through her tablet and building friendships online.
“It’s very nice of Circle of Care to have given me this tablet, so that I can connect online to not only the programs available, but also to help expand my knowledge and skills in the comfort of my own home, during a time of isolation,” says Janet. “I have really enjoyed the group sessions and am happy to see everyone online each week.”
Teaching Senior Safety through Webinars
When searching for a guest speaker for the Let’s Get Together program, Devorah found Sheldon Parker, a retired lawyer and founding partner of Parker and Zener LLP. Parker was a guest speaker for many previous community in-person events and webinars surrounding senior safety.
“I thought it would be very beneficial to have him as a guest speaker for a webinar series for older adults in the community,” says Devorah. “These types of dangers, such as frauds and scams, happen every day, and it’s important to keep our clients educated on these topics.”
Through a four-part webinar series, Parker delivered information and resources for older adults living in the community on how to avoid frauds and scams, how to understand their will and powers of attorney, and how to spot and prevent elder abuse.
“I think it’s very important to have these safety webinars, especially as the prevalence of frauds and scams increases. It should be on our clients’ radar, and they should know of potential dangers,” says Devorah.
Parker has been volunteering his time to speak during webinars and in-person educational events for over six years after he retired. He has spoken at synagogues, churches, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
“I am a lawyer, and very often, lawyers have a passion for helping people – and helping them avoid challenges. I try to plan things for people to help them avoid problems rather than fix them after it happens,” says Parker. “When I realized how important senior safety was, I started volunteering to speak on the topic. I want to give older adults the tools to help them avoid frauds and scams, understand wills and power of attorney, and learn about other important topics such as elder abuse.”
After six years of being a guest speaker, Sheldon does not tire from helping others and is always willing to help whenever he can.
“I see it as my community responsibility,” says Sheldon. “If I have the knowledge, and ability to share and help others within the community, then I’ll do it.”
Circle of Care has also hosted additional webinars on senior safety. We partnered with the Toronto Police Service and York Regional Police, who spoke to our clients about frauds and scams and provided safety tips for seniors. Toronto Fire Services has also joined us for a special fire safety webinar for clients.
“We’re pleased to be able to work with so many community partners and members to provide these education opportunities for our clients,” says Devorah. “It’s important to keep our clients educated on these topics so that they can become aware and avoid any harmful financial, physical, and/or emotional negative impacts.”
To find out more about our upcoming special events and webinars, visit our Monthly Calendar page for program details.