The holidays can be a time of isolation for seniors.
It is an issue that is not unique to the pandemic, but COVID-19 has only served to amplify the issue.
This season, however, area seniors – and the community at large – are teaming up to make the season that much merrier for older residents who will be spending Christmas at Southlake Regional Health Centre.
The Be a Santa to a Senior program is being led this year by Home Instead, an organization that provides specialized care and support for aging adults and their families.
A North America-wide organization, the local office – and local Be a Santa to Seniors Program – is owned by Greg Bechard and Brenda Enright who have seen the needs of seniors firsthand.
They are working in partnership with the Roxborough, a seniors’ residence adjacent to Southlake, to get the program off the ground.
“In partnership, the gifts we collect are going to be distributed through Southlake’s Emergency Geriatric Unit,” says Ms. Enright. “The gifts [requested] are more of the essentials and it is actually quite humbling when you look at the requests we get. A lot of the times it is blankets, sometimes it could be a new pair of pyjamas, slippers, toiletry items like soaps and deodorant, shaving cream or shampoo. Usually we also get something sweet like a new pair of pyjamas and some chocolates, or a new hat, mitts and scarf with some caramels, but it is just about the essentials they need in day-to-day life.”
As they are in partnership with the Roxborough, the Be a Santa to a Senior program is definitely based on the idea of “seniors helping seniors,” but it is very much focused on the community as a whole coming together for the cause.
“People can come into the Roxborough Retirement Residence where there are ornaments on a tree,” says Ms. Enright. “They can collect an ornament, take the ornament away with them, and they can purchase the gift that is on the ornament – it could be that Mary is looking for a new housecoat and some chocolates, so you would go to purchase the gift and bring the gift back unwrapped with a tag and leave it at the residence. We have volunteers with whom we then have a wrapping party.
“There are a lot of programs out there for children at Christmastime, but there is just this other demographic that is oftentimes overlooked during the holiday season and can be forgotten. A lot of seniors are lonely and isolated and COVID has certainly increased that isolation. Maybe this year it will be a little bit better, but it will really be an opportunity to give light to a different group of our community members who are in need and isolated. This might be the only gift they receive at the holiday season, but it is a nice, heartfelt, warm gesture so that our seniors in our community, or aging adults, understand and know their community cares for them. It is seniors taking care of seniors, but it is a community [and] we really want the community to know we want them involved in all ages, asking how they can really honour and make the older adults in their community feel valued, appreciated and not forgotten.”
The Be a Santa to a Senior program was founded by Home Instead 18 years ago and throughout North America they have provided over two million gifts for in-need and isolated seniors during the holiday season.
“A small act of kindness can make a big difference,” said Bechard. “And a heartfelt gift brightens the lives of older adults who may feel alone during the season. Finding ways to care and support one another is important now more than ever.”
For more information about the program, visit BeaSantatoaSenior.com or call 905-235-7130.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran