By: Michelle Poirier

During the Ontario-wide lockdown, Georgina seniors say the hardest struggle they face is loneliness.

Margaret Van Den Hazel, a senior who lives in Keswick, said she thinks seniors are doing the best they can, but that it is lonely for many of them who live alone.

“I have a dog, and the dog is getting to the point where he’s getting tired of me talking to him,” she said.

She said her only outing is her weekly trip to the grocery store where she goes in the early afternoon to avoid the crowds.

“It’s very sad when you look forward to getting groceries, it’s something that you had to do, it was like a chore, and now it’s an escape from your house, it’s a pleasure, you really look forward to it,” she said.

To occupy her time, she has been cleaning her house, crocheting, calling her friends and family on the phone and using her phone to call in to her church Zoom meetings every Sunday, as she does not have a computer.

June Peach, a senior who lives in Sutton, has picked up knitting to occupy her time, along with talking to her friends on the phone and watching television.

“I do miss the connection with the Sutton seniors, they are a wonderful lot who go to Club 55, and we all miss one another and the friendship that is within that club,” Ms. Peach said.

Liz Ennis, a senior who lives in Keswick, says living with her husband helps curb the loneliness other seniors are facing, but still finds it difficult to not have the social outings they used to.

“It’s the companionship and the touching of people, giving people hugs, seeing people smile and telling them you look nice and that type of thing that is really missing,” she said.

“It’s very difficult, there is nothing social and that is really hurting the seniors because they look forward to that.”

She said it was much easier in the summer when friends could get lunch together on a patio and keep their distance, but now that it is winter seniors are staying in due to the cold and the fear of slipping on ice.

Niv Balachandran, Executive Director for Routes Connecting Communities, said Routes started a new program to help deal with the loneliness their clients were facing during the pandemic; it’s called The Friendly Call.

She said the program started as a way to check in with clients they had not heard from in a while, due to their appointments and social trips being put on hold.

The clients liked the phone calls so much they asked for a regular check in calls since some of them had no one else to check in on them.

“We matched people based on interest, so a lot of our seniors who were isolated were starting to receive weekly or bi-weekly calls where they could just talk to somebody about something that was of interest to them,” she said.

But The Friendly Call is not just a program for seniors, it is for anyone who may feel isolated, she added.

Another struggle that seniors and other vulnerable residents are facing during the lockdown is the ability to get groceries if they do not have access to a car, a credit card for curbside pick-up, or are unable to go out due to their health.

Routes has also started a grocery program to deal with this issue, with the help of a grant from United Way.

“For people who were not able to get groceries or do curbside pick up, we were able to get a small pot of funding to provide free groceries to people, especially for people who are low-income or living with a chronic illness,” Ms. Balachandran said.

This program allows the person in need to give a grocery list to the Routes volunteer who would go out and shop for them and leave the bags by their door at a pre-arranged time.

This program is still available for those in need themselves or if you know of someone else in need you can refer them to Routes.

“I hope that everyone is safe and that we can get our shots and we will get out of this, we will get out of this, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we will survive,” Ms. Van Den Hazel said.

For more information about the grocery program or The Friendly Call you can call Routes at (905) 722-4616.

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