It is difficult to believe that someone living in a big city like Toronto could be socially isolated but it is a growing problem. Especially with seniors, and especially around the holidays.
Those most at risk live alone, have no children or contact with family, and have declining health. Those conditions are exasperated by retirement, the death of a spouse and loss of a driver’s license, which impact one’s sense of purpose, income and independence.
“After I retired, I would get up in the morning,
get dressed, and sit in front of the TV.”
One in four adults over the age of 65 would like to have participated in more social activities in the past year. 19 percent of individuals 65+ feel a lack of companionship and isolated from others.
Worse than obesity, isolation creates as much risk of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Isolation accounts for a 29 percent increase in the risk of heart disease and 30 percent increase in the risk of stroke.
Socially isolated seniors have a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next 7 year. From illness or from their own doing.
Men 65 and older have the highest suicide rate of any group in Canada. A rate triple the national average. The desire to commit suicide is most common with people who lack meaningful connections and fear being a burden.
To reduce senior isolation and improve the health and wellbeing of clients, Haven Toronto operates a ‘Social Inclusion’ program that includes social and congregate dining, onsite activities including tournaments, and group excursions to local cultural attractions and community events.
Haven Toronto also encourages clients to volunteer at the drop-in centre, where they can help prepare and serve meals and maintain the facilities.
“Haven Toronto gives me a reason to get out of bed.”
Social inclusion at Haven Toronto is about providing clients with dignity, increased self-worth and the opportunity to be part of a safe and welcoming community.