For the most vulnerable seniors, the holidays can be the hardest time of year.
The winter months might be missing that special sparkle for those who live alone, have lost a loved one, or are struggling to put a meal on the table.
Nearly three in 10 older adults live alone. Jerry is one of them.
In the past, meeting new people made Jerry nervous. He wanted to go out and make friends, but he needed a push.
One day, that push came from a friend named Willa, a volunteer at Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS). She encouraged Jerry to come play cards and have a cup of coffee.
“I dragged myself,” Jerry said. “But I thought, ‘I like cards, I like coffee.’” It was hard at first. He was anxious to go into a room with a bunch of people he didn’t know. But, week after week, it got easier.
Now, more than five years later, he always looks forward to it.
ROSSS is a long-time United Way East Ontario partner. Together, with support from donors, they provide seniors with social programs to help them live independent, healthy lives. United Way knows preventing loneliness and isolation is key to a senior’s overall health.
For Jerry, a simple gesture from a volunteer at ROSSS during difficult times made all the difference.
“Who shows up at my window in the middle of COVID dressed in a clown suit? Willa!” Jerry laughed.
Many vulnerable seniors feel extreme loneliness, especially over the holidays. Finding transportation to in-person activities, the grocery store, or medical appointments is also a challenge. And in the winter, the severe cold makes it even harder to safely leave the house.
United Way works in Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark County, and Renfrew County to find lasting solutions to complex, chronic issues like social isolation and mental health. More specifically, United Way helps seniors by:
- Expanding remote and in-person day programs.
- Connecting seniors living in rural communities who need transportation and companionship.
- Improving access to healthy food, basic needs, and mental health supports.
These local services are a lifeline for so many.
Jerry’s calendar is full of activities now. He gained the courage to get out of the house and connect with others. “I just go in and say hello to everybody,” he said. “We laugh. And it keeps us young.”
A donation to United Way East Ontario can help bring joy to those who need it most in your community this holiday season. Jerry’s story highlights how just a little generosity can improve the lives of real people.