By: Kathryn Poirier
519.754.0777 Ext. 438

According to recent data gathered by Statistics Canada, as many as 1.4 million elderly Canadians report feeling lonely. For those individuals with fewer family members and friends to provide company and care to them, social isolation is a significant concern. But what does social isolation mean?

Social isolation describes the lack of contact when a person is cut off from normal social networks. This sad state can be triggered by a variety of things including loss of mobility, unemployment or health issues. People who are isolated often stay at home alone for lengthy periods of time; have no access to services or community involvement, and little to no communication with friends, family and acquaintances. Feeling isolated and alone can have devastating and harmful impacts on the individual.

Isolation can increase the risk of mental health issues such as depression, dementia, anxiety in social situations and low self-esteem. It can have direct effects on cardiovascular disease, with increased nervous system activity and inflammation and/or decreased sleep. All of these affects can accelerate brain and cardiovascular aging. Being isolated can lead to increased feelings of loneliness and fear of others.

Home Instead Senior Care is just one of many organizations in the community working to help address social isolation for elders during the holiday season. The community is invited to provide gifts and holiday cheer to seniors who may be isolated from family and friends. Thousands of seniors have received gifts through this program that has been in effect since 2003.

“Be a Santa to a Senior” operates with generous support from Brantford businesses, non-profit organizations, retailers and volunteers. Home Instead Senior Care has partnered with Millards Chartered Professional Accountants, the Brantford Seniors’ Resource Centre, Shoppers Drug Mart and the Beckett Adult Leisure Centre to help collect and distribute the gifts.

“Be a Santa to a Senior” trees are displayed at the Shoppers Drug Mart located at 10 Stanley Street and the Beckett Adult Leisure Centre at 219 Colborne Street, Brantford.

You can help! Go to one of the participating locations and look for the “Be a Santa to a Senior” tree on display until December 14. Each tree will be decorated with ornaments featuring seniors’ first names and their requested gifts. Choose an ornament, purchase the desired gift and return it to the location. Be sure to attach the ornament to the gift to ensure appropriate matching! The gifts should be returned unwrapped. Community elves and program partners will wrap and deliver the gifts in time for the holidays.

Community partnerships and relationships are crucial to the overall health and well-being of a community. Organizations like Home Instead, Millards, the Seniors Resource Centre and Shoppers Drug Mart are to be commended for their commitment to their community and the people who reside here.

There are many, many charities or organizations for people to support or help during this holiday time. Often there is a personal reason for feeling connected to that particular organization with the season allowing them to give back just a little bit more. When planning your seasonal giving please consider the needs and wishes of a senior. Remember they helped build this country and this community. Everything we have today is a result of their efforts over the past decades.

Why not adopt another grandma or grandpa for the season and bring them special holiday cheer from your house to theirs? What’s one more? You’ll be glad you did! And remember, your efforts will bring comfort and joy and will greatly ease the sense of isolation.

The Grand River Council on Aging is a registered charitable organization and welcomes donations to assist in carrying out activities necessary to facilitate residents, organizations, local government and business to implement “age-friendly” initiatives. Receipts will be issued for donations of $20.00 or more. Donations can be made through or by mailing to Grand River Council on Aging, 363 Colborne St. Brantford, ON N3S 3N2.