There are nearly five million seniors in Canada — more people age 65-plus than people under 15. In Toronto, over 15 percent of the citizens are seniors. They represent the fastest growing segment of the City's population. With them comes the growing issue of isolation.
This holiday, too many of Toronto's seniors will spend the festive occasion alone.
Says one senior, age 85, "I've never been on my own during the holidays. I used to be with all the family years ago. They've all died-off, one after the other. There's isn't anybody that I could call my next of kin."
With isolation and loneliness comes the risk of depression and suicide. Every year at this time there is an increase in the number of deaths by suicide in Canada. Depression is the most common illness among those who die by suicide — approximately 60 percent suffering from the condition. Males are three times more likely to die by suicide than females.
When asked about the upcoming holidays, one senior said they will be alone, "Unless somebody invites me." They continued, "I've got nothing planned so I'll watch television." Sadly, many seniors turn to television as their only source of companionship.
Haven Toronto is a drop-in centre for elder men age 50-plus. The centre is a safe, inviting space where elder men can socialize, grow relationships and be part of a community. This holiday, Haven Toronto will be open every day to serve the homeless and the isolated, including holiday dinner. Through the centre's online store — www.shophaventoronto.ca — people are encouraged to Shop And Share, and donate a holiday meal for a dollar.
Holiday dinners at Haven Toronto are about more than the meal. It is about reducing social isolation and giving people the opportunity to gather and enjoy each others company. This is something the drop-in centre does every day, all year, including all major holidays. Haven Toronto is open 365 days a year — poverty, homelessness and isolation never go on vacation.