From co-designed and peer-led activities, distanced cooking and dining programs, tablet loaning initiatives, to supporting Mandarin and Cantonese speaking seniors, this webinar featured panelists from Rideau CHS, Somerset West CHC, Vaughan CHC, and South Riverdale CHC who shared how they created sense of safety and overcame digital access and literacy barriers.
The COVID-19 pandemic response has increased the risk of social isolation for many people. Restrictions on in-person gatherings, the introduction of social “bubbles,” closures of public and commercial gathering-spaces, and the suspension of many community programs have made it hard for people to find connection and community. This is especially for those who live alone or don’t have close friends or family nearby.
Online and virtual communication, such as videoconferencing and social media, have helped close the distance for some. Community primary health care organizations have embraced this potential, moving many of their community and personal development group programs online; by late May, nearly 80% of Alliance members were doing this. But for some of the people most at risk of isolation, the programs with broadest appeal may not be safe or accessible. Many older adults may struggle to adapt to new technologies. People who experience marginalization and stigma may not feel comfortable joining a group of strangers online. People may join a group but be isolated by a language or culture barrier.
This webinar explored solutions to these challenges. Program staff from four Alliance for Healthier Communities member centres shared the strategies they have employed to create virtual spaces that are safe, accessible, and welcoming for marginalized older adults. They shared experiences, tools, stories, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.