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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



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. or 647-208-9733.

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