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New funding will help seniors stay connected during COVID-19 crisis

Agencies providing programs and services to seniors across Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin counties will benefit from Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program
Elliott Community resident having a face-to-face visit with family members, thanks to the iPad provided to them through this funding. Photo supplied

United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin, in partnership with the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, is increasing the capacity of local agencies to support seniors across our communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early April, a $9 million fund was announced by the Government of Canada to respond to the immediate and urgent needs of seniors (55+) in all parts of Canada including rural and remote communities. Funding was distributed to United Ways across Canada on a population based model, with United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin receiving just over $70,000. Funds were intended to support the delivery of a range of community services including meeting basic needs like food, hot meals and personal care items, outreach and social support through check-ins with seniors, transportation and other services.

“While physical distancing is essential to protecting seniors from COVID-19, it risks isolating them from their community. That is why the Government of Canada is proud to work with United Way Canada to help support the needs of seniors during this difficult time. By using local expertise, this funding will help provide support tailored to the unique, local needs of seniors across the country. As we work together to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, the government is supporting Canadians every step of the way,” said The Honorable Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors.

Upon learning of the funding opportunity, United Way pulled together a group of agencies providing programs and services to seniors across Guelph, Wellington county and Dufferin county to learn more about what the current needs and gaps in services looked like, as well as had many conversations with individual agencies in Wellington and Dufferin county.

“Initially, when the pandemic started, basic needs such as food insecurity, social isolation and the mental health of both seniors and their caregivers were identified as the top priorities of those working with our seniors population,” said Colleen Murdoch, director, Communications and Community Impact. “We distributed funding based on what our community partners were telling us were the immediate needs, and although we know that these needs will continue to change over the course of the next few months, we hope this assistance will increase the capacity of our partners to continue to care for one of our most vulnerable populations.”

United Way has allocated the full amount funded by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons Seniors Program. Funding recipients include:

Guelph and Wellington County
    •    Guelph Wellington Seniors Association – funds will support the delivery of four individual frozen meal/week to 130 seniors in need
    •    CHMA Waterloo Wellington – Support for a county-wide communications plan to ensure seniors stay connected to services and engaged with their community, to reduce social isolation
    •    Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Meals on Wheels – funds to support capacity to increase the number of seniors served, through meal delivery and virtual programming
    •    The Elliott Community - support for the purchase of iPads to assist the 90 seniors living in long term care and 150 in retirement stay connected to their families and the outside world
    •    East Wellington Community Services – funds will support the delivery of individual frozen meals to seniors in need and the purchase of iPads to allow for face-to-face sessions and group activities
    •    Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington – funds to support the increased demand and training of new volunteers for the Distress Line and Teleconnect
    •    Immigrant Services – support to assist with interpretation and translation services for newcomer seniors experiencing isolation
    •    Guelph Independent Living – funds to assist with the purchase of groceries and food hampers for seniors in need

Dufferin County
    •    Shelbourne Food Bank – support for an increase in the number of food hampers delivered to seniors in need and to supplement the contents with more produce, grains and dairy
    •    Orangeville Food Bank – support for the preparation of individual meals delivered to seniors
    •    Alzheimers Dufferin – funds to support the purchase of iPads for clients and their caregivers to remain connected and Activity Kits to keep clients busy and engaged

Funds provided to these agencies through the New Horizons for Seniors program are in addition to the funds being raised through the local COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Agencies are encouraged to continue to apply for funds through the Community Response Fund here.