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People and programs 06/21/2018

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.

In 2014, Tosh, an avid gardener, met Laird, a widower, in The Table Community Food Centre’s community garden program. Every year, dozens of garden volunteers sow The Table’s more than 8,000 square feet of community garden space and harvest thousands of pounds of produce that’s split between volunteers and The Table’s programs.

Tosh and Laird struck up a quick friendship in the garden, and Laird soon found himself telling Tosh about how his sunny yard was begging for a veggie patch. The two joined forces to create an informal yard-sharing project which kept them both well-fed all season. Tosh’s green thumb produced a bounty of kale, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Laird, in turn, was able to harvest at will.

Laird is a self-proclaimed “meat and potatoes kind of guy,” but he says he’s felt more confident trying new foods with Tosh’s encouragement. And their friendship and network of support has grown too. “Both sides benefit from this equation,” says Tosh. Spin-off benefits like these abound when you create spaces that encourage people to connect and develop skills together. It all adds up to a more connected and resourceful community.

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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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