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Caring for our older adults is everyone’s responsibility

In this month's column, Karen McElroy, of Age Friendly Guelph, talks about The Gatekeeper Project
Gatekeeper Project Image (1)
Supplied photo

Statistics show that as many as 10 per cent of older adults in Ontario will experience some form of abuse or neglect each year.

A growing number of these seniors lack any kind of family or agency support, and too often, we in the community overlook this need for help.

It’s time for us to do better.

The Gatekeeper Project – a community driven initiative supported by diverse organizations – is based on the principle that the care of a vulnerable citizen is everyone’s responsibility and helping each other contributes to a better society.

The goal of the Gatekeeper Project is to help identify socially isolated, under-serviced seniors by increasing community awareness to help ensure they are safe.  

‘Gatekeepers’ could be any one of us who regularly interact with vulnerable older adults – a volunteer, a bank teller, a postal delivery person, a store cashier, a transportation driver, a neighbour, or a family member. In these roles, Gatekeepers have a unique vantage point. With effective training on how to identify and refer potential concerns for an older adult at-risk, Gatekeepers make our community a safer place for all of us.

Abuse has many forms: financial, emotional, physical, sexual and neglect. The Gatekeeper Training helps build the awareness of community members, giving them the tools to recognize the signs of abuse and help connect seniors to the services they need. Together, we can all make a difference for vulnerable individuals and seniors experiencing abuse.

In Guelph, over 25 per cent of our population is aged 55+, and this number is expected to grow to over 30 per cent by 2031 (

Most of us go through life solving our day-to-day problems without needing help. However, if you are interested in protecting yourself, becoming a Gatekeeper or hosting a training to help protect vulnerable citizens, please contact Manon Germain, Project Facilitator, Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington: 1-224-820-0835 or [email protected] or visit our website for more information about upcoming training and events:

For more information about how you can support or get involved with Age Friendly Guelph, get in touch via [email protected] or visit

Karen McElroy — Age Friendly Guelph Leadership Team member, CEO Boardroom Metrics Ltd.

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