October is Community Support Services Month in Ontario and the message behind this month is of particular importance to United Way Niagara as we continue to support programs and services that make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people in our community. United Way Niagara is proud to continue funding agencies that strive to ensure older adults in our community can have the best quality of life possible in their older age. Still, during the pandemic, the need for support has grown substantially.

Angus Reid Institute research shows that in Niagara, 1 in 5 people will experience social isolation. During the pandemic this issue has been amplified and has had adverse affects on those living alone at an older age. While Canadians have been rightfully staying safe and isolated when necessary, cutting important social ties for many seniors has made an impact on their lives. Community supports also benefit adults living with disabilities. Did you know that as many as 1 in 4 people in Niagara live with a disability?

There are many community support services in place in Niagara, provided by local non-profit agencies. Some of these services include Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, drop-in centres, transportation to appointments, caregiver support and palliative care services. They all have one thing in common – they are delivered by funded agency partners of United Way Niagara.

Man sitting alone in home looking out the window

Seniors experienced some of the worst outcomes over the past year including increased anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality and physical inactivity. Mental well-being and the availability of community supports are linked which is why United Way made such significant investments in initiatives that support our communities most vulnerable members.

United Way’s social isolation strategy supports programs and initiatives that help individuals build meaningful relationships, feel connected to the social fabric of their communities and maintain as much independence as possible. The strategy focuses on creating opportunities to participate in community, forming and maintaining social networks, and establishing inclusive environments where people live, play, and work.

Norman was one person who benefited from community supports last year. Norman was left isolated and without support when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. He relied on his son for weekly groceries and companionship. In April 2020, Norman’s son lost his job and was no longer in a position to support his dad in the same capacity. Norman found the help he needed through Meals on Wheels – a program that changed his life and would simply not exist without United Way funding.

In 2020, United Way investments helped over 68,000 individuals from all walks of life experiencing social isolation access supports and programming to improve connectedness and maintain independence, from senior’s transportation, technology for connection to virtual counselling and multiple outreach programs.

Donate today to provide support for those who need it, or perhaps make it a goal to check in on the elderly loved ones in your life today and ensure they have the help they need to thrive.