HelpAge Canada marked National Seniors’ Day on October 1 in Ottawa by a special event and the launch of the Reach Isolated Seniors Everywhere (RISE) campaign. Attended by over 200 people, the objective of the Seen Your Citizen event was to address the effects of social isolation and loneliness on seniors and find community based solutions. Seniors, community groups, service providers and volunteers of all ages attended the event, which was organized by HelpAge’s Natalie Fraser.
Discussion panels on social isolation were held throughout the day with senior moderators and participants from diverse cultural backgrounds. But it wasn’t all serious. Activities ranged from live music, tap dancing, Bollywood dancing and other performances by seniors’ groups, to exhibits and information booths on Ottawa’s many cultures and faiths.
According to Gail, one of the panellists, “If you are alone in the suburbs and don’t have family around you, you can be very lonely”, explaining the emotional challenges faced by isolated seniors. She suggested, “If you know someone is alone in a house or apartment, just knock on the door, introduce yourself as a neighbour and ask if there’s anything you can help with.” She also suggested, “volunteer and you will have a good life and won’t be lonely.”
Seniors living at home may feel lonely or have difficulties looking for assistance in their daily living. “Keep contact with your church, friends and family…look for services like the senior centre,” said Earl, another panellist. “Get to know the options available to you when you can’t take care of yourself anymore …there are many community groups to help.”
During the day, HelpAge Canada launched RISE (Reach Isolated Seniors Everywhere), a national campaign to address social isolation and loneliness. The goal is to gather as many organizations and individuals across the country as possible to spread the message about social isolation and take action. There are different stages of social isolation; the more one becomes isolated, the more one is at risk for health and mental problems that can result in emergency room visits,” said Executive Director, Jacques Bertrand.
HelpAge Canada has developed a tool to help identify symptoms of social isolation and the corresponding actions – the Isolation Spectrum, found on the RISE website (www.rise-cisa.ca). We are asking our partners, organizations and individuals to download this tool and distribute it,” said Bertrand.