Seniors forums provide seniors with support, services and new opportunities

Seniors forums provide seniors with support, services and new opportunities

November 08, 2016

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Baby Boomers, the largest demographic in Canada are transitioning into their senior years, thus increasing the seniors population. They currently represent about more than 25 per cent of residents living in Toronto Community Housing and about 15 per cent of Toronto's population.

​​​"The number of people who are living to 80 to 90 years old is tripling," said Adina Lebo, Chairperson of the Toronto Council on Aging and Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). "The number of people living to 95 to 105 is quadrupling."

With an aging population living in Toronto Community Housing and living longer as seniors, there is a more pressing need to connect tenants who may need services and support to community agencies. The seniors forum initiative is a collaborative project between Toronto Community Housing staff and tenants focused on making these connections. They were hosted back in August at Daniels Spectrum and surrounding buildings in Regent Park, at the Imdadul Islamic Centre in North York in September and at t​he Scarborough Civic Centre​ earlier this month. More than 1000 residents living in Toronto Community Housing gained an interactive experience to engage with community agencies and receive helpful tips and resources to live a better lifestyle.

"The [forum] is an amazing experience for seniors to get out and to learn more about the resources available to them," said Carolyn, a social worker at the Kensington Health Centre.

Maurice, a member of the tenant-staff planning committee, said that the success of the forums was a result of the group working together to be as "inclusive and as diverse as possible." This included reaching out directly to tenants who live in the designated 69 seniors buildings and in mixed family housing.

​​A group shot of the tenant-staff working committee, the Grey Voices.

A group shot of the tenant and staff working group​, the Grey Voices. 

Creating a space to inform  ​

About 70 per cent of the senior population in Toronto Community Housing live alone and independently, but there is a growing number of vulnerable tenants who face challenges including coping with grief and loss, deterioration of physical and mental health, language barriers, mobility, social isolation and understanding their legal rights.

Maurice, a strong advocator of providing services to vulnerable tenants believe that they should be flexible and should offer support. "We must be aware what is available and be informed about it," he said.

At the forums, attendees participated in various workshops and were made aware of what more than 30 agencies that can do to help support, and address concerns to some of the challenges that impact them. Senior residents egaging with community partners.

Tenants engage with health agencies to learn more about health and wellness. 

Toronto Paramedic Services attended at the forums in Regent Park and at the Imadadual Islamic Centre where they educated residents on their health.

"We provided seniors with an I.C.E.( In Case of Emergency) form so they can fill out and place on their fridge or wall in case of a medical emergency. It allows paramedics to have a better understanding of the tenant and thus better assess the situation,” said Michele, a Toronto Paramedic Services representative.

Toronto Paramedic Services staff educating tenants on blood pressure and heart rates.

Toronto Paramedic Services staff educating tenants on blood pressure and heart rates. 

North York Community House also joined the forum to inform seniors of the various programs available for them, especially residents who may be dealing with isolation as a result of language barriers and culture gaps.

A representative from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care wanted to let seniors know about the Seniors Co-Payment Drug Program. "A lot of seniors qualify for the co-payment program and do not event know about it," he said. With about 97 per cent of seniors living in Toronto Community Housing paying rent–to-geared income (RGI) and living on a fixed income, he attended the event to reach as many low-income individuals as possible.

Community agencies infrom residents about support and services in workshops and presentations. ​

Community agencies connecting with residents. 

Creating a space of empowerment

The seniors forum was used not only as a space to inform, but a space to encourage older tenants to live a balanced lifestyle.

​Hing Mak, an attendee of the event in Regent Park, felt most empowered by The Exercise effect on Mental Health by MedFit Rehab. "[It was] my favourite workshop," she said. It was fun to use the resistance bands and to get a bit of physical activity."

Kofi, a tenant who attended a legal workshop, appreciated St. Michael's Hospital for coming out and providing useful legal information. "I learned more about my rights as a tenant and had the opportunity to talk about legal issues that we face as seniors."

George Torys, First Link Manager at Alzheimer Society Toronto, spoke directly to attendees, encouraging them to stay socially and physically active.

​"Being socially active is one of the best things you can do for your health," said George. "Use it or lose it, but it is important to train the other part of your body to work all the parts of your brain."

Attendees actively participate in a mental health exercise workshop.

Attendees actively participate in a mental health exercise workshop. ​

Continuation after success

It took much encouragement to convince [them] to come out [and to convince them that] it would be worth their while to come out," said Emelda, Community Service Coordinator at Toronto Community Housing. "At the end, those who attended said we should repeat it."

According to Maurice, the initiative this year has set new standards. "The seniors forum should be an annual thing," he said. "It should be something that we emulate and something to strive to do every year."​

Highlights from the seniors forums.

All smiles from seniors and staff at the seniors forums. ​

​With the third and final seniors forum now over​​​​​, staff and tenant members of the planning committees are hopeful that the forums has reached and positively impacted many seniors living in Toronto Community Housing.

"The worst thing seniors can do is retire. [They] should stay flexible, keep learning and keep adapting," said Adina. While these events aim to inform and empower older residents living in Toronto Community Housing she states that "life is just beginning [for them] and it is [their] time to do what [they] never got to do." ​

More information

For a list of supports and services we provide to seniors, visit our services and support page on our website.

Check out our Facebook page​ to see more photos from these events. ​