On the occasion of International Day of Older Persons1, Centraide of Greater Montreal is taking the pulse of some of its network’s agencies. It is without surprise that all the persons questioned made the same observation: The pandemic has had a significant impact on the daily lives of our seniors
Projet Changement centre communautaire pour aînés
Projet Changement centre communautaire pour aînés, a community agency operating in Plateau Mont-Royal for the past 50 years, has a long roadmap in terms of working with seniors. Their mandate allowed them to witness firsthand the effects of the pandemic on seniors, according to director Francine Lefebvre.
“We have witnessed important changes in their living conditions caused by the pandemic and the necessary health measures put in place: loss of mobility, cognitive losses, increasing isolation, anxiety. They were already living with certain restrictions (illness, poverty, solitude), the health measures added another layer. For example, making an appointment with a doctor or for a vaccine has become a true obstacle course! And it was even worse for seniors victims of the digital divide whose only tool is a good old phone.”
Comité d’Animation du Troisième Âge de Laval (CATAL)
We hear the same story from the Comité d’Animation du Troisième Âge de Laval (CATAL).
“In the context of a pandemic which has gone on for 18 months, we have noted a vastly different and slower pace of life because of the numerous health measures and the increased vulnerability of certain senior groups. We note even greater differences depending on certain age groups and degree of vulnerability. Also, the context of double vaccination of seniors in the past six months has finally allowed those seniors to gradually move out of confinement, but in different ways.”, explains Monique Bernatchez, director of the agency.
When the normal offer of service could not be assured, community agencies have had to show ingenuity so as not to set anyone aside.
More specifically, what are community agencies doing to help older persons?
During this health crisis when the normal offer of service could not be assured, community agencies supported by Centraide of Greater Montreal have had to show ingenuity so as not to set anyone aside.
The team at Projet Changement centre communautaire pour aînés has understood this early in the pandemic: our seniors had a greater need to be heard, supported and reassured and as always, the team responded positively, explains Francine Lefebvre.
Most of our activities and services have been adjusted and we were able to offer friendly phone calls, courtesy calls, support groups, in-person and online fitness and Zumba classes, and “Free your mind” type workshops to more than 3,400 people! And to maintain our connection with seniors without internet, we have created the project Correspondances: le courrier qui fait du bien! It involves sending a caring letter, together with a prepaid envelope, on a regular basis along with exercise, activity or game suggestions, which allows participants to express themselves, make requests and find an attentive soul…”
The Comité d’Animation du Troisième Âge de Laval (CATAL) is no exception. Adaptation and innovation have taken center stage so that the whole team can accomplish its mission, explains Monique Bernatchez.
We maintain contact (phone, email, mail), with our clientele on a regular basis to ensure their safety and to offer remote entertainment. Friendly phone calls have also been made by employees and a group of volunteers. This helped maintain the troops’ morale. Since people are used to having an active social community, the fracture has been drastic for all. Physical activity and workshop capsules along with virtual conferences have rapidly been offered and folks are still telling us about the benefits of keeping contact and being able to move thanks to these activities. Keeping up to date, being able to play remotely on occasion, remote psychological support offered by our ITMAV team has been greatly appreciated. Since September 2020, we have offered respite services and community meals while respecting all the health measures. We have offered a take-out meal service for those who could not come to the CATAL. We have virtualized most activities and kept the option of going on a walk with others to maintain contact.”
 Initiatives de travail de milieu auprès des aînés en situation de vulnérabilité (ITMAV)
How to offer help to older persons in our community?
 On December 14, 1990 the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons as recorded in Resolution 45/106..