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seniors

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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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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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In Good Company: Filippo and Helen’s Story

by Marisanna Tersigni

"A friend is what the heart needs all the time." – Henry van Dyke

Filippo and Helen

Filippo and Helen

Over the past six months, Helen and Filippo have connected through North York Community House’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers program (NCSC). Part of the ENRICHES.ca collaborative, this Friendly Visiting mentorship program was created to match isolated caregivers (55 years and older) with volunteers who offer their support and a connection to the community.

Filippo is a caregiver to a close relative and Helen is a Volunteer Mentor, and together, they are one of the many successful matches taking part in the NCSC program. On a weekly basis, the two of them connect at a local library and over the phone.

“It’s nice having conversations with my mentor. I am content that I met her this year." - Filippo

Filippo and Helen are respectful of one another and this openness has allowed for a friendly exchange and a successful mentoring relationship. They have exchanged stories and experiences, and as a result, have built trust and mutual respect. Helen expressed that their constant communication and updates over the past six months is one positive aspect of their match.

“Together, we made a significant difference to the caregiver and care receiver’s needs, reduced isolation, enhanced his life and created an enriching experience for both of us." - Helen

Filippo shared similar thoughts and is grateful for Helen’s support, availability and friendship. He gained a new source of support this year with the NCSC program. Out of this experience, Filippo has been able to practice speaking English and has become more comfortable speaking to others. He has also been connected to a variety of community supports including healthcare and other resources. He shared, “(Helen) even accompanied me to an appointment which was a great help”. Filippo’s kindness and friendliness has been appreciated by Helen and all of us at NYCH.

“Friendly visiting is a great idea because it helps to increase one’s self-confidence. Our mentoring relationship has yielded some positive stories in our lives." - Helen

“Everyone I have met here has been fantastic. They are very kind and helpful. I feel like I am one of you." - Filippo


Please contact Shova for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, social programs, and educational workshops for older adults: sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733. 


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Youth Teach Computer Skills to Seniors

by Shova Adhikari, Outreach Coordinator, Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers

NYCH’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers (NCSC) program offered computer classes at Albion Library this past August. The program was organized in partnership with Albion Library and Youth Empowering Parents (YEP).  Seven youth were recruited by YEP and Pathways to Education, and trained by both YEP and NCSC. They were then matched with senior caregivers to provide fun and friendly one-on-one support around the use of computers and technology. 

Some of the seniors said this was the first time they had learned keyboarding and computer skills. One participant, Punam Bhai, expressed that he initially thought that the computer was beyond his capacity, but he joined the group after his friend encouraged him. Now, he has gained confidence and is excited to learn more. 

...it was fulfilling to give them the tools they needed

One of the youth tutors, Komahan, made the link between youth’s digital knowledge and seniors who are keen on learning or upgrading skills. "It was great to give back to the community, especially in a way in which I could see the immediate results. Having been born into the digital age, I had not really given thought to the generational rift caused by technology…The seniors I worked with had a strong desire to be informed and independent and it was fulfilling to give them the tools they needed. One of my tutees was especially excited by Google Translate, knowing that he could now read the Toronto Star and follow local news - allowing him to be more civically engaged."

We thank YEP for recruiting youth participants and providing this exciting curriculum. We’d also like to acknowledge the dedication of NYCH School Settlement Worker, Sarwar Mustofa, and the support of Albion Library for use of their facilities.


Please contact Shova for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, social programs, and educational workshops for older adults: sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733. Please visit www.enriches.ca for further information about our collaborative initiative to reduce isolation among senior caregivers.


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Caregiver Seniors Manage Stress Through Yoga

This June, the Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project completed another yoga program at the Gord and Irene Risk Community Centre. The program was organized in partnership with Delta Family Resource Centre and delivered by a wonderful volunteer yoga instructor, Imelda Villalon.

There was a huge turnout with an average of 20 seniors every week.  The program provided an opportunity for older adults and senior caregivers to improve posture, manage stress and learn some useful tips to stay healthy. It also helped them make connections with one another and reduce social isolation.  

Participants said that they enjoyed the session and felt a difference in their well-being. They thanked Imelda for sharing her knowledge and humour with them. Some participants expressed that they found this yoga group different from others. “Although it was a big group, the yoga instructor was very flexible. She adjusted in a way that everyone could [go at] his or her own pace. It was more relaxing and suitable for seniors’ needs."

One of the senior caregivers said, “I started doing yoga at home as per suggestion from Imelda and I am very happy that I joined this group”.

We are grateful to Imelda for sharing her expertise and to the Delta Family Resource Centre for organizing the space and helping us to spread the word to senior caregivers.  

Please contact Shova Adhikari for more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for caregivers 55 years of age and older. sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.

ABOUT THE NEWCOMER CONNECTIONS FOR SENIOR CAREGIVERS PROJECT
The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more

 

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English Conversation Circles with Senior Caregivers

NYCH’s Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers program offered an English Conversation Circle at the Jane Street Hub from May until July.  Twenty senior caregivers (older adults who are informally supporting a family member or friend) participated, and five volunteers facilitated the groups. 

NCSC’s social work student, Laxmi Gurung, thought the enthusiasm of the facilitators was very impressive. “Also, the senior caregivers who could speak English were encouraging other participants to communicate in English saying, ‘Yes, you can do it, say it in English.’  It was very inspiring to see this kind of spirit in senior caregivers.”  

One participant’s experience went beyond learning conversational English skills. “I like this English program. I learned more English. Before I was not talking, but in this English class I learned more talking and sharing.”  

This sharing aspect was felt by volunteers as well. “The caregivers could share cultural issues and cultural ideas,” said volunteer Nadereh Javadinsa. She also acknowledged that, apart from her enjoyment of the group, participants benefited by “overcoming isolation and feeling lonely at home.”

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

Volunteer Nadereh (right) with ECC participants

We’d like to acknowledge the time and dedication of NYCH volunteers. We are also grateful to the Tamil Seniors of Self-Reliance group leaders for introducing us to their participants and friends!

For more information on our Friendly Visiting program, educational workshops, and group activities for senior caregivers, please contact Shova Adhikari: sadhikari@nych.ca or 647-208-9733.

ABOUT THE NEWCOMER CONNECTIONS FOR SENIOR CAREGIVERS PROJECT
The Newcomer Connections for Senior Caregivers project is part of the ENRICHES Initiative. The aim of our collaborative is to identify, engage, and support senior caregivers in northwest Toronto who are at a high risk for social isolation due to language and cultural barriers. We will connect seniors to peer mentors and youth volunteers to provide information and support in the caregivers’ own languages and provide direct services both in the community and at home. Learn more

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