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senior caregivers

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Cooking With Caregivers – An NCSC Program

by Marisanna Tersigni

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Understanding that being a caregiver is a tough role to have, I believe that programs like these are not only a good way to relax and make new friends, but it is an amazing support system. This sense of community and belonging is what everyone - not just senior caregivers - want to feel.
— Kelly (Volunteer)

The Cooking with Caregivers program brought together youth volunteers and seniors to learn and share their love for food. The program was part of Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers (NCSC), a North York Community House (NYCH) project of ENRICHES, a collaborative to reduce isolation among informal/family caregiver seniors. It was facilitated by social work student Leneque along with volunteers Leo and Kelly in early 2018 at the Bathurst and Finch HUB. Senior participants learned healthy recipes, prepared meals and were educated on healthy eating and living practices.

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University student Leo chose NYCH/NCSC as his first volunteer experience: “This was my first volunteer opportunity in Toronto, and I am happy and confident to say, it was also my favourite. I joined this program because I wanted to try something new: help caregivers. I enjoyed all the caregivers’ company and they have all become family to me”.

Leneque, a social work student with the NCSC project, has shared how facilitating Cooking With Caregivers has enhanced her skills and made for a rewarding learning opportunity:

When I volunteer, I am filled with joy every time I see a smile on people’s faces. I am able to hone my leadership and communication skills every week. My peers and colleagues tell me that I have become more confident when public speaking. This experience has also opened my understanding of different senior issues and is one that I will take with me in all of the work that I do in the future.
— Leneque

The NCSC team appreciates the time and dedication these volunteers have put forward into creating a successful cooking program. Both the seniors and volunteers have expressed how they looked forward to attending every week.

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The NCSC project also collaborated with the Youth Cooking and Leadership Program at North York Community House, a 5-week long program for newcomer students. One caregiver senior, Filippo, volunteered his time to instruct in Italian cooking. “I have benefited from this program. I think that all senior caregivers could have a great experience here. In these group and one-to-one programs, you can increase your social connection with people.”

One youth participant speaks to his experience learning from the instructor: “Filippo was amazing! The food that he had cooked for us youth was incredible! He is very kind and amazing to talk to. He taught us different things such as: cutting onions without crying, how to safely handle utensils, and how healthy foods like vegetables and fruits can be used as snacks rather than junk food”.

We can learn much from older adults and from caregivers, and discover talents, skills and connections across cultures and generations. Another youth participant noted: “Youth can learn from the seniors because they have lived through so much and they already have experienced being a teenager.”

Filippo believes that involving oneself either as a participant or a volunteer in community programs can give caregivers courage and comfort.

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My advice for caregivers is to accept help and participate in programs like this one. If you don’t, it’s more difficult to find comfort and serenity to move forward. The challenges can become larger than you and you can become isolated. It’s important to surround yourself with family, friends or people who support you.
— Fillipo

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Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community

Deepa has been volunteering with North York Community House's Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project for the last two years. She is a Social Mentor to a senior caregiver. The social mentorship program was created in 2015 to reduce social isolation among senior caregivers (55+)caring for a family or friend in need.

Deepa has connected her mentee to many caregiver resources and has taught the caregiver how to navigate systems of care for seniors. They stay connected by meeting once a week and by talking over the phone from time to time.

 
I am very happy to have Deepa as my mentor, now I have someone whom I can meet every week, and ask anything I need.
— Caregiver
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Their mentorship relationship is mutually beneficial, as they help one another and enjoy one another’s company. They share everything from their past, current life situation and future plans. Although the commitment for mentor match was for six months, they have continued to see one another every week for the last two years.
 
Deepa came to Canada as an immigrant a few years ago and completed the Social Service Worker program at George Brown College. 
 

Although I could not find job in the social service sector, this volunteer work gave me an opportunity to practice what I learned in school and build my confidence. I hope this experience will lead me to find a job later.
— Deepa

Deepa believes that this Social Mentorship matching program works well to address the needs of the senior community. The program benefits many senior caregivers who are home-bound due to their caregiving role or those who have few social connections.

For those who want to work or volunteer with seniors, Deepa suggests it is best to be empathetic and compassionate towards them. She also says it is important to be a good listener because you can learn a lot from the mentee’s experiences. She encourages others to volunteer as it is a great way to give back to the community and gain a lot of self-satisfaction.

For more information about NYCH or the New Horizons for Seniors Program project, visit us at nych.ca/senior-caregivers and www.enriches.ca.
 

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Dragana's Yoga Story

By Dragana Despotovic, Happy Aging

My experience with North York Community House has been life-changing. Seriously. I am not exaggerating this at all. 

I moved to Toronto two years ago from Serbia. A month after I landed, I applied to become a NYCH volunteer. At a volunteer orientation session, I learned that there was a need for chair yoga instructors for seniors. As I was freshly graduated from Yoga Academy this was a perfect opportunity for me to refine my English, meet new people in a new country, get to know the neighbourhood and possibly find a job in the future. Volunteering gave me all of that and even more.

I fell in love with working with seniors and I fell in love with my job.
Seniors Yoga Session, Imdadul Islamic Center, January 2017

Seniors Yoga Session, Imdadul Islamic Center, January 2017

I started with a small group of seniors at the Action for Neighbourhood Change office in Lotherton. Soon after, the room became filled up with many seniors from the area. Last summer, there were so many yogi seniors that we placed the chairs in front of the building and became a Tuesday attraction in the neighbourhood. We were having so much fun learning not only yoga and meditation but getting to know other cultures, customs, languages, recipes, and traditional dance styles! I fell in love with working with seniors and I fell in love with my job. Inspired by all that good energy, I decided to open my own business: Happy Aging.

Meditation time at Black Creek Community Health Center, March 2017

Meditation time at Black Creek Community Health Center, March 2017

Now, two years after my first Yoga for Seniors session, I can proudly say that I have been working with more than 500 seniors throughout the city. Happy Aging was also a part of NYCH's Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project which has opened many doors for my professional and personal growth.

Even now, with my tight business schedule, I have not stopped coming to Lotherton. 

From my personal experience, I know how moving to another country isn't easy - emotionally, financially, culturally. Undoubtedly, North York Community House played one of the most important roles in making the transition smoother and happier, as well as finding my own professional path in Canada.

It definitely was life-changing!

Thank you North York Community House! Special thanks to Vivienne, Shova and Stephanie - It's been a pleasure working with you! 

Learn more about Happy Aging
Website: http://happyaging.ca/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/happyaging.ca/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/happyagingca


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Volunteering with Seniors at NYCH

By Besma Soltan, Training Coordinator, Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers

Building on the success of its first year, the Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers (NCSC) project continues to connect volunteers to isolated, newcomer senior caregivers. The volunteers have been a mixture of newcomers to Canada, recent university graduates from health- or social services-related programs, and seniors who were caregivers themselves. This diversity, along with the diversity of our volunteers' spoken languages and cultures, has allowed us to create balanced programs that effectively respond to the needs of caregivers. 

It provided me with a good start to my career, where I developed great experience interacting with seniors.

Feda, Volunteer with NYCH's NCSC program

Volunteering is a rewarding experience, with the reward depending on the volunteer’s objective. All of our volunteers receive a comprehensive training that provides information on the issues faced by caregivers (aged 55+) and the impact of their role. As the number of seniors in Canada continues to rise, and with it the number of caregivers, being aware of this larger context has allowed our volunteers to realize the importance of their role within the program, as well as outside of it. 

Feda is one volunteer who took this experience to the next level. Feda’s interest in working with seniors grew after being matched one-on-one with an isolated caregiver in the NCSC Friendly Visiting Program. She was able to connect her caregiver partner to information and resources, helped her improve her English skills, and created a safe environment for the caregiver to open up about her struggles as a newcomer and a caregiver. This knowledge gave Feda a good start in her new role working in a seniors' home. “It provided me with a good start to my career, where I developed great experience interacting with seniors”, Feda shared.

Other volunteers shared their joy at seeing how enthusiastic older caregivers were about improving their knowledge and skills. “This is an impetus for the volunteer mentor to also support them with computer learning”, shared Minakshi Das, one of our NCSC volunteers. Minakshi has worked one-on-one with an isolated caregiver, and is now matched with a couple to provide computer instruction, which is one of her passions and one of the couple’s goals.

With 8 million caregivers in Canada, the majority providing care to a close family member (carerscanada.ca), we depend on our volunteers to help connect them (and their care-recipient) to information and available services. We have also been happy to see the benefit for both partners, with the caregivers finding companionship and links to resources which they weren’t previously aware, and the volunteers learning new information themselves and enhancing their transferable skills. 

We look forward to working with more amazing volunteers who enhance the value of the program, and contribute to making the lives of senior caregivers better.


To volunteer, please contact Besma Soltan, Training Coordinator for NCSC, at bsoltan@nych.ca or 647-459-0547. If you are a caregiver or know of one, please contact Shova Adhikhari, NCSC Outreach Coordinator, at sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.


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