What seniors told us - community involvement

Most seniors want to stay active and engaged in their community. Key concerns included:

  1. Making the transition between activities you used to do, what you can do now, and what you think you may be able to do in the future.
  2. Feeling like you are losing control over your life (e.g., home care services scheduled at times that interfere with other activities; tied down by caregiving).
  3. The conflict between staying in your home/community where you feel included vs. the need to move so you can access services or supports.
  4. Seniors like a variety of opportunities to participate but there are gaps in some communities.
  5. Diverse seniors have concerns around meeting places, costs and getting to religious centres.

 “We have our interests but we can’t do it anymore. Sometimes I get very angry and frustrated because I can’t do things that I used to do.” (BURLINGTON)

 “... My grandma is a Buddhist and there is no possible way for her to involve herself in her

spiritual activities in Milton … she had to create her very own temple area within her home ...” (MILTON DIVERSE)

The ability to participate socially is affected by:

  1. Information about events: In Oakville and Milton, seniors expressed concerns about communications between community members. In Burlington, seniors are bringing together citizens and business to reach isolated seniors.
  2. Costs
  3. Facilities: people need public places to meet such as Seniors’ Centres, churches/temples, etc., but they must be easy to access (e.g., moving the library in Halton Milton made it less accessible)
  4. Transportation (driving and public transit) particularly in Milton
  5. Caregiving responsibilities
  6. Level of energy and interest
  7. Mobility, vision and/or hearing problems
  8. Language and cultural barriers
  9. Time of day when events are held.
  10. Moving (e.g., to an apartment building) or a new community where you don’t know people (e.g., particularly mentioned in Oakville).
  11. Sense of being welcomed.  

“Neighbours do not socialize. Cost of social and leisure activities are outside of my income.” (BURLINGTON) 

“We have some in there that speak absolutely no English, only their own language so it’s hard to communicate. Hard for them to participate ...” (OAKVILLE)’  

“…personally speaking, I can see now where our social life is starting to drop off. We are not so quick and eager to go out as often… I don’t like driving in the rain at night.” (OAKVILLE) 

“When I retire, I want to do exercises and it is impossible now because of lack of transportation” (BURLINGTON DIVERSE)

Many felt their towns were friendly and inclusive. But some seniors also experienced instances of being excluded, “talked down to” or patronized.

  1. Some businesses are excellent in helping seniors feel they belong but some do not. Some seniors feel salespeople are not as helpful. Some feel treated like they are incapable of making decisions.
  2. Communities may seek the opinion of seniors at public meetings but information can be difficult to access (e.g., language barriers, meetings held at night).
  3. There were mixed feelings about the value of inter-generational programs; many diverse seniors put a high value on them.
  4. Bodies that could help to ensure respect and inclusion include agencies that work with seniors, local governments, businesses, and healthcare providers (physicians, nurses in hospitals).

 “I really worry that we are getting too compartmentalized, that there needs to be more cross-generational stuff… If we could create a better understanding for young people who see seniors doing things, then there wouldn’t be the fear. I think a lot of kids are scared of old people.” (MILTON)

“The lack of respect comes in things…they may change your schedule or they may send you somebody that you have never seen before but they don’t necessarily call and tell you.” (BURLINGTON) 

Sometimes in a bank. They have phoned my daughter because she is also on my account for when I pass on, it makes it easier. They will actually phone her... she just says phone my mother; she’s got all her wits about her. It’s my own money. It’s annoying. You get that sometimes from people who don’t know” (OAKVILLE) 

“We were encouraged to buy our own bags and now we go to the store and the checkout no longer puts them into the bag. Now you are left with these groceries and can’t get it packed fast enough. I have raised the issue with them at…several times.” (MILTON) 

“(my bank) knows me by name... That’s marvellous.” (MILTON)

Some seniors stay involved by volunteering and/or working but are concerned about being able to continue. Some may need to participate in a different way.

Volunteering

“I’ve been on boards but they are in the evening and I don’t want to be out late. I don’t enjoy driving in the dark or in the bad weather. So I don’t do that anymore. But you miss being in touch and knowing what is going on.” (HALTON HILLS) 

“My wife tried to volunteer there … you have to commit to 18 hours a week and you have to be available for this and for that … would just like to do a little bit of volunteer work and here they make you sign up for a commitment that is half a full time job.” (BURLINGTON)

“... would like to be doing more volunteer work. Would look for volunteer work through social service networks i.e. Red Cross?” (BURLINGTON)

“Through my church I volunteer and I do phoning from home. I remind the parishioners of dates and times. They are always short of volunteers at my church”. (OAKVILLE)

“They want to volunteer but only for the Chinese community.” (MILTON DIVERSE)

“I used to volunteer with Big Brother’s, Links2Care, Meals on Wheels, Georgetown Seniors’ Centre. Now I don’t drive so I can’t volunteer anymore” (HALTON HILLS)

 Working

“I mean what other kind of work can you do that you do get paid for. Do they look down at us now as senior citizens, ‘Oh, she’s an old lady, he’s an old man, I’m not going to get a good day’s work out of them’.” (HALTON HILLS)

 “… I have done most of the elections but I am backing away from them because unfortunately they extended the hours and that is probably more than I am prepared to give …” (BURLINGTON)

“There are two reasons why seniors would work. One is because they have the time to and the other is perhaps because they have to or feel they have to because…seniors pensions plans don’t measure up to very comfortable living. … I don’t know what we can do to push the federal government to look at seniors

pensions. I think there are a lot of seniors who could use a few extra bucks a month and it’s not in the discussions these days”. (HALTON HILLS)

“… There’s a lot of organizations realizing there’s a lot of experience walking out the door

so they are prepared … keep them around ... It might not be in the same job they are doing but they are important to the organization.” (OAKVILLE)

Barriers for work/volunteering are similar to those for all social activities

“I would like to become more involved but (as her caregiver) I sort of have to think of her and the time I have to spend with her …”(OAKVILLE)

“As a caregiver, the quality of work sometimes suffers. You’re employed but you are a caregiver. You are stressed and your thoughts are elsewhere.” (MILTON) 

“… the centre gave me a beautiful employability skills certificate but it doesn’t work in Canada ... When you are my age they say you don’t have enough experience. (Or) they tell me I am over qualified.” (MILTON DIVERSE) 

“May be opportunities to work longer but looking for a new job is daunting for some” (OAKVILLE) 

“I work part time. It was not easy to find. I didn’t want to go downtown Toronto, I wanted to be here in my community. I wanted to use my skills that I used in my full time career here. Not that many opportunities” (MILTON)

“I did the polling booth one year … I found it too long of a day. 14 hours we ended up putting in.” (HALTON HILLS) 

Seniors vote and want to be included in decision making and consultation processes.

“We have a new alderwoman and she has a website set up. That’s good for us. She is very, very active and she wants to be involved so she wants you to be part of it and she sends out information and she asks for information back. She has a marvellous newsletter.” (BURLINGTON)

“We went to the variance meeting and they wrote right into their decision that we were to be kept informed of everything that was going on and we have been.” (MILTON) 

“We have a member of the council that sits on our board whenever he can, keeps us informed and I am sure he keeps them informed of what we are doing” (HALTON HILLS) 

“Yes, I vote.” (OAKVILLE DIVERSE)