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Seniors ‘essential contributors’ in making our communities safe

Seniors ‘essential contributors’ in making our communities safe

Community Care CEO James Meloche says older adults integral to organization

At Community Care Durham (CCD), our mission is to support older citizens maintain their independence through a wide range of support services provided in home or in our community hubs across Durham Region.

Because older adults with health and social challenges are a high risk to the impacts of COVID-19, we knew we had to change the way we delivered services. This is exactly what we did — continuing our essential services with added safety precautions, creating new programs and adapting technology to deliver the supports needed by our near 11,000 clients.

But today’s column is not about my team of dedicated staff. Nor is it about the risks of COVID-19 to the aging population. That may come another day. Today is about giving recognition to those seniors who have been an essential part of the community’s COVID-19 response.

We often hear in the media about the growing aging population or the “grey tsunami.” This is true, in Durham as elsewhere, but such references suggest that aging itself is a health condition or that older persons consume more healthcare simply because they are old. The truth is that a relatively small portion of older adults require significant healthcare, but the majority of older adults are active, contributing members of our community.

CCD couldn’t deliver the supports we do without the aid of our 1,600 active volunteers — many of whom are older adults. Volunteers like Ron Lake who, despite suffering a series of strokes, warmly greets program participants at our Adult Day Program. Or citizens like Bart Hancock — a retired school teacher — who regularly delivers Meals on Wheels to housebound clients, while also volunteering at his local food bank.

At the outset of COVID-19, many of our older adult volunteers paused working in order to ensure their own safety. However, others continued, while dozens of others became new volunteers. I met many of these older volunteers as they picked up our new Community Food Boxes and delivered to homes across Durham each week.  These senior volunteers are essential workers in the community response to COVID-19.

Finally, often unrecognized, are older persons who are also caregivers. When programs closed, or travel became too difficult, these heroes remained at home to care for their loved ones day after day. We simply would not be managing this COVID pandemic without the everyday, unseen and unsung contributions of caregivers.

So, while we continue to rally together to respond to the COVID pandemic, especially to protect our most vulnerable citizens, remember that seniors are not just recipients of care, they are essential contributors that make our entire community safe.

The Metroland Media Group first published this column on November 16, 2020.