An East York organization is engaging seniors with a wellness and inclusion program to make the world a little more accessible for those forced to live out their twilight years locked away for fear of contracting a deadly virus.
The Unified We Grow program runs from Jan. 27 to March 2, featuring online interactive sessions like COVID safety, cyber and phone security, and even mushroom growing.
Barbara Baker is one such senior who, having to enter retirement during pandemic, has found living in today’s world difficult.
“My husband has health issues, so I try to protect myself,” Baker says. “If I am going to the store, I need to go first thing in the morning when there are less people.”
Baker is lucky enough to be able to live a moderately normal life, with some adjustments. But there are other seniors who can’t survive in a COVID-19 world.
Entering year three of the pandemic, a lot of Canadians are finding it a bit easier to achieve some semblance of normalcy, but many grandmothers and grandfathers have been forgotten in today’s society.
Unified We Grow is a grassroots not-for-profit initiative started in East York in 2017. It aims to serve vulnerable groups in East York through volunteer initiatives and programs.
“Last year we had a trip to a farmers’ market, the seniors got vouchers and were able to do some shopping,” says Alisha Griffith of Unified We Grow who is trying to include seniors by organizing events and outings for them. “Some of the seniors haven’t been to a market since before the pandemic started.”
Creating a better community
Organizing these outings isn’t something the elderly are able to do on their own. Many times, their outings are limited to places that are within walking distance.
“Just because you’re in a chair or are using a walker, it doesn’t mean you qualify for TTC Wheel-Trans,” Griffith says. “Many of the seniors don’t even have internet. How would they be able to print out the form in order to gain access?”
Unified We Grow is also seeking to create a space where people of all ages can come together and create a better community. The stories and lived experiences the elderly have are seen as valuable tools to be able to foster growth in communities.
In a post-pandemic world, it can be seen as a bit of a daunting task to get to know your community, according to Griffith.
“You’d feel more inclined to help someone out if you know them from a program you attended together.” she says.
Unified We Grow offers programs and volunteer opportunities year-round for East York residents and can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or on their website at unifiedwegrow.com.