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People and programs 06/25/2018

For National Seniors' Month, we're celebrating the contributions seniors are making in our communities, and asking ourselves how our society can evolve to become more inclusive and accessible in the coming decades.

Seniors face a typically Canadian challenge in Regina when the winter comes. The harsh weather and icy sidewalks keep many people housebound. During one of those long winters in 2000, staff at tenant associations in Regina’s low-income seniors residences noticed that a number of seniors weren’t eating properly. It didn’t take long for community organization REACH to step in and launch two seniors’ programs to get good food to the plates of these vulnerable citizens: a frozen meal delivery and mobile fresh food market.

According to Executive Director Dana Folkerson, “young people tend to move away for better job opportunities so elderly people don’t have families close by.” Many seniors in Regina’s low-income high rises don’t have a lot of family support. REACH staff who deliver meals for their frozen meal program often go above and beyond, chatting, taking out garbage, even changing people’s light bulbs. Seniors and their families feel safer that a friendly face is checking in once a week, along with delivering a healthy meal.

The programs allow seniors to stay independently in their homes as long as possible while getting some much-appreciated friendly contact. REACH’s mobile store sells affordable fresh fruit and vegetables at five low-income senior housing towers each week, with the community lingering over healthy food, neighbours meeting neighbours, and filling the air with sounds of excitement over vibrant colours and vine ripened tomatoes.

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Seniors are a fast-growing population who will make up a quarter of Canadians by 2036. Research shows that seniors are at greater risk of becoming lonely and socially isolated — they have a harder time accessing social spaces due to declining income, lack of mobility, living alone, and the moving away or loss of friends and family. According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey, one-fifth of adults aged 65 and older feel a lack of companionship, left out, or isolated from others — and that impacts their health and well-being in big ways.

Our partner Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations are creatively using food to tackle this growing trend of social isolation among seniors. By offering fresh fruits and vegetables, and inviting spaces to connect with others, they're using the power of food to build up seniors’ sense of belonging, and grow their physical and mental health.
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