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Send A Smile To A Senior Helps Combat Senior Isolation And Lends A Hand To Local Businesses

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Victoria General Hospital Foundation and Victoria Lifeline’s new program, Send a Smile to a Senior, is combating senior isolation while lending a hand to local businesses. Thanks to the generous contributions from our supporters, we will be finding creative ways to ease loneliness for seniors all year round.

The program kicked off this holiday season by delivering care packages with local goods to over 450 isolated seniors in our community. The care packages included handmade cards from 103.1 Virgin Radio’s Cards For Care program, Garage and Dynamite, Lord Roberts Community School, Fort Richmond Collegiate, and St. Maurice School.

 “It was a surprise to receive the package and very much appreciated. The best connection was the handwritten card, these things came from real people who care,” said Karen Kleiman, a resident of Fort Garry Rotary Villa.

Over the past year, we have all experienced periods of isolation due to COVID-19. During this time, we may have felt lonely, anxious, or depressed. Unfortunately for many seniors in our community, these experiences didn’t just begin when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Karen is used to being alone, but she acknowledges it can be tough not to see loved ones.

“To be honest, my little life is much the same! It's not easy being unable to socialize, but most of my time is devoted to prayer and music, that's always time spent alone in any case,” said Karen.

Loneliness can have a serious effect on the health of seniors. Long-term isolation has been linked to depression and dementia, whereas seniors who have a supportive social circle are more likely to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Luckily, Karen has two designated support people, her son and her nephew, who she can count on. She considers herself very lucky to have them in her life.

“I'm doing very well myself during this sad time, but I know many of my buddies in the building are really suffering. The Christmas gift delivery was a real bright spot for everybody, and we're very grateful,” she said.

The care packages were filled with practical goods like soup mix from Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE) in partnership with Wolseley Family Place’s Food Connections, cookies from Indigenous Women’s Healing Centre, hand sanitizer, activity books, a tote bag from Outstanding Branding, and Karen’s personal favourite: a three-layer mask from The Cutting Edge Quality Designs.

Not only did the care packages feature 100% local products, but they also supported amazing organizations like LITE.

LITE is an organization dedicated to helping people who face barriers entering the labor market find safe and accessible employment. These short-term work opportunities help people gain experience so they can secure long-term employment.

They partnered with Wolseley Family Place’s Food Connection to make 500 delicious dry soup mixes. This endeavor created two full days of employment for two women, something that has been hard to come by during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Not only did the women get an opportunity to earn an income, but they also learned new skills to put on a resume, obtained glowing references from Wolseley Family Place’s Food Connection, and gained a boost to their confidence when entering new job opportunities in the future. Plus, they both said the two days they spent mixing the soups “smelled like heaven.”

Tyler Pearce, executive director at LITE, is hoping to make more dry soup mixes to create more jobs in the future. When an organization or individual buys products from LITE, they’re engaging in what Tyler calls social purchasing.

“Social purchasing is still very new to a lot of people, but it’s [so] powerful to take something people are going to do anyway, like buy soup mix, and build a social impact into that,” she said.

When The Vic Foundation bought the soup mixes from LITE, not only were seniors receiving a delicious gift, but it also gave LITE the ability to invest in our community.

“The power of that gift radiated throughout other areas of our city,” said Tyler.

The more individuals and organizations choose to commit to social purchasing, the more LITE can create new opportunities for people who are struggling to find a reliable income.

“If I can continue to create more jobs in a sustainable on-going way, then I’m doing my job,” Tyler said.

Following the success of the holiday season care packages, additional care packages were given to new ACCESS Fort Garry homecare clients throughout the month of January.

Victoria General Hospital Foundation and Victoria Lifeline are looking forward to sending more smiles to seniors year-round with this new endeavor.