“She’s an angel…a real life saver. I don’t know what I would do without her!” said a local senior who receives a weekly visit from a volunteer with the Muskoka Seniors friendly visiting program.
Approximately two dozen participants in the program gathered at Faith Baptist church recently to fill 30 bags with a variety of gifts that they’ll deliver to patients at the hospital who have an unexpected stay. The bags, filled with basic necessities, are a catalyst for the organization’s larger goal: fueling connection.
Muskoka Seniors offers a variety of other ways for people to connect within the community, including meals on wheels, friendship luncheons, and a phone reassurance program, as well as special events throughout the year.
The participants expressed enormous gratitude for all they’ve received from Muskoka Seniors volunteers and programs, which have become an essential part of their lives.
“I used to sit in my living room staring at the walls daily,” said one.
“Now we get to go on adventures!” added a volunteer.
Participants come from a variety of economic and social backgrounds, including retired teachers, nurses, and homemakers. Previously they were isolated and lonely, with limited to no transportation, fixed incomes, limited community connection, and few local family or friends. Now they have weekly outings, new friends, and a sense of belonging, all of which are essential to good health.
It was no exaggeration when Karen Raaflaub, a program coordinator with Muskoka Seniors, said that, “Loneliness is now an epidemic.”
According to the 2017 Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, “Social isolation can be twice as deadly as obesity and as big a killer as diabetes. It also increases the risk of dementia by 64 times.”
Seniors living in rural areas may lack transportation. Some may no longer have a partner, and children or other family members may not be nearby. As well, as we age it can become increasingly difficult to try new things. And once someone becomes isolated, it can be difficult to reach out. Luckily Muskoka Seniors offers the simplest of ways to connect.
Seniors who are not comfortable with a visitor coming to their home can request a regular phone call.
One man emphatically said that he only wanted someone to call and “Make sure I’m alive!” and absolutely did not want to be “chatted up” when they called to check that he was still breathing. Now, three months later, he has regular 20-minute phone conversations with his friendly phone visitor. This may seem like a minor success with insignificant impact, however the volunteers, staff and participants of Muskoka Seniors know these connections have lifesaving benefits.
As a non-profit volunteer organization, Muskoka Seniors always needs financial support to ensure the continuation of the programs that are so essential to the wellbeing of local seniors.
The organization does receive some funding from outside sources, including Faith Life Financial, which assisted in the assembly of the gift bags, however they also rely on donations. Learn how you can help at muskokaseniors.org.
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