Social isolation a danger for seniors


Sir: The Foundation of The Retired Teachers of Ontario/ Les enseignantes et enseignants retraités de l’Ontario (RTO/ERO) declared its first annual Social Isolation Awareness Month for October. As well, Oct. 1 was International Day of Older Persons. The day is recognized annually by the United Nations.

The Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility produced a fact sheet for municipalities and organizations to use in their ongoing efforts to improve the lives of seniors. Below are just a few of the points from that fact sheet.

  • In 2015, for the first time in Ontario’s history, there were more people over age 65 than children under age 15.
  • Rural areas of Southern Ontario and urban areas of Northern Ontario have the highest proportions of seniors in the province.
  • Since the mid-1990s, the incidence of low income among seniors has moved steadily higher from about two per cent to 12.3 per cent in 2016.
  • It has been estimated that 30 per cent of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated and up to 16 per cent of seniors experience social isolation.
  • Many seniors want to age at home and in the community. However, some need help with access to services, transportation and social connections.

The RTO/ERO Foundation issued a challenge to its members to take part in the first Engage: End Isolation Campaign. In the information accompanying their invitation to join the challenge, they indicated that “According to the International Federation on Aging, the number one emerging issue facing seniors in Canada is keeping older people socially connected and active.”

Here are some of the ideas that were part of that challenge.

  • Phone an older person in your life. Consider adding a weekly call into your schedule.
  • Arrange a visit with an older person in your life. Consider visiting weekly or every two weeks.
  • Take some time to have a conversation with an older person whose path you cross but who you haven’t connected with yet.
  • Let an older person who lives nearby know when you’ll be going grocery shopping.
  • If you know an older person who lives in his or her own home, offer to take care of a seasonal task.
  • If you have a parent, a family friend, neighbour, etc. who you know uses technology and who may need assistance, take the initiative to ask if all their technology is working.
  • If you’re worried about a parent or friend, invite them to take on a volunteer activity with you.
  • If you have someone close to you who you worry is at risk of isolation, invite him or her to go on weekly walks with you or visit the local pool for a swim.

There are many ideas here and there are many more that you can come up with that apply to your situation, community and its facilities such as swimming pools and adult or seniors centres.

Although October highlighted senior isolation, it certainly didn’t end in October. Unfortunately there are many people in all of our towns and rural areas who would really appreciate your phone call, short visit, trip to go shopping or perhaps just a visit to the local coffee shop. Hopefully you will never be in this situation, but as we all know, things change.

Please take the time to consider helping someone in your community who really could need that help.

Chatham-Kent has been designated as an “Age Friendly” community. Please do your part to make this a reality.

Paul Brown



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