The video in this story was filmed in January 2020, prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted community programs in ways both big and small, meaning this program may look a bit different right now. This story is an example of how United Way works with our community partners to make a difference 365 days a year—no matter what challenges our communities face.
Casey is a sixth-grader and a regular attendee of the Forever Young program at the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (MMYC).
Along with other youth aged 10 to 18, Casey learns valuable skills like cooking while serving hot meals to seniors. Socializing over spaghetti dinners, playing board games, and sharing other activities with young people helps combat the isolation that many local seniors feel.
“I like best of all the different perspectives that young people bring to me,” says Meed, a program participant who is in her seventies.
Double the impact
In Perth, 39.5 percent of seniors live alone. Following close behind is Smiths Falls, with 35.2 per cent.These two municipalities have the highest percentages of seniors living alone alone in Lanark County, meaning they are at increased risk of social isolation.
With this in mind, strengthening social programming for seniors in rural communities has continued to be a top priority for United Way East Ontario.
Additionally, across our region of Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties, 37,245 kids live in low-income situations, meaning many may not have access to the necessary supports that help pave a path to success.
United Way worked with the MMYC and Carebridge Community Support to develop the Forever Young program in order to reduce isolation for rural seniors, and to provide a safe and engaging space for youth to learn and grow.
Adjusting during the pandemic
Since the onset COVID-19, the MMYC has adjusted its services to continue serving local youth and seniors.
“Countless seniors in our community felt unsafe leaving their homes and entering public spaces when COVID-19 began,” says Sara. “While we continued to provide hot meals, we also expanded the program to include canned goods and frozen foods for seniors who were struggling.”
MMYC has also developed many new online youth programs, offering ukulele lessons and a watercolour course—led by Meed! The Centre also acknowledges the challenges that many seniors face in accessing online tools to do just that, which is why they’re currently working on a program where youth train seniors in applications such as Zoom, providing them with valuable leadership skills while helping seniors stay connected.
Thanks to these transitions, Lanark County youth and seniors can stay in touch and continue building important relationships, despite the barriers of COVID-19.
“I have nothing but praise for the way the Youth Centre has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Meed. “From the rapid planning of online programs to the ‘new and improved’ Halloween haunted house, it’s amazing what this community has and is continuing to accomplish.”
Through the generosity of our donors, United Way and our community partners are able to break down the barriers to participating in engaging social programs in Lanark County, and beyond.
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