The SPCO works in collaboration with a growing number of volunteer grassroots ethno-cultural groups to improve outcomes for ethno-cultural seniors.  Ethno-cultural seniors are disproportionately at risk of isolation and face multiple barriers in accessing appropriate services.  Grassroots groups are critical to supporting healthy aging, providing the essential foundation of support which is complemented by the professional health and community services.  Currently we are working with 26 groups who engage thousands of seniors living in the Ottawa area.  These groups rely primarily on volunteers, and despite growing demands, have very limited budgets.  This year we worked together on numerous projects, listed below.  Our collaborative model has demonstrated the effectiveness of enhancing the capacity of grassroots groups and working through them in order to increase their ability to support healthy aging in community.

Creating Community for Isolated Ethno-Cultural Seniors

This project reduces social isolation for immigrant and ethno-cultural minority seniors.  Funded by Employment and Social Development Canada, New Horizons for Seniors, it  concluded it’s three and a half year funding with many successes based on collaboration and partnerships with 26 ethno-cultural groups.  The project met and exceeded its program level objectives and has made significant contributions in reducing social isolation largely  through the hard work and dedication of the leaders and volunteers by reaching and supporting some of the most isolated and vulnerable seniors in their communities  Some of the highlights of the project included:

  • Seniors participated in over 50 different types of activities.
  • The groups hosted presentations, lectures, seminars and information session on 44 topics
  • Eighty special outlining were offered.
  • Organized the 2nd Annual Walk-A-Thon during Seniors Week, raising over one two dollars for space rental to host social and recreational activities.
  • The groups made over 2,300 interactions with seniors through home visits and telephone reassurance.

We are grateful for three years of funding from the Government of Canada (New Horizons for Seniors Program), which ended in 2019.  The groups will continue to meet on a monthly basis and will develop terms of reference for the work they will be doing in the future.

Keeping Ottawa Seniors Connected (KOSC)

“Creating Community for Isolated Ethno-Cultural Seniors” (see previous page) was one of six projects funded within a broader initiative called “Keeping Ottawa Seniors Connected” (KOSC). KOSC is a collective impact initiative to reduce seniors’ isolation in Ottawa over three years. It brings together seven community partners who have received close to $3 million in funding over three years from Employment and Social Development Canada to execute activities, measure results, leverage resources and build momentum to reduce seniors’ isolation.

The Council on Aging serves as the backbone organization for the broader KOSC initiative, and host a Social Inclusion Committee.  Six agencies, including the SPCO, run funded projects which address specific groups at increased risk of isolation: South-east Ottawa Centre for a Healthy Community, Nepean-Rideau-Osgoode Community Resource Centre, Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre, Catholic Centre for Immigrants Ottawa, Ottawa West Community Support.  Visit

Culturally Responsive Community Based Supports for Seniors with Dementia and Caregivers

The Brain Health Program is a culturally responsive community-based adult dementia support program piloted by the Social Planning Council of Ottawa (SPCO) in collaboration with the Indo-Canadian Community Centre (ICCC), the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre and the Champlain Community Support Network (CCSN).  The Brain Health program is a social innovation model built on asset based community development. The innovation is in the service delivery models, which are public, non-profit, community partnership approaches providing viable evidence-based models  that supports healthy aging in place.  The project began in 2019 with the Indo-Canadian Community Centre and Kanata Chinese Seniors Support service each running weekly adult day programs.  In 2020, two additional communities actively joined the project in delivering their own unique model of support to their community members with dementia – Daryeel A Seniors and Youth Serving Centre and the Ottawa Valley Filipino Canadian Senior Citizens Association.  We are grateful for the generous support of the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), Innoweave (McConnell Foundation)  and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Ethno-Cultural Seniors Home Visitors Training Project

Six groups helped to provide input in this training guide and translated the guide in 6 languages, French, Punjabi, Spanish, Simplified Chinese Tagalo and Vietnamese. This practical volunteer training and support guide was created to help ethno-cultural seniors’ groups develop and conduct formal culturally appropriate volunteer training and support.  The guide is also intended to help increase the capacity and sustainability of existing ethno-cultural groups in Ottawa who provide volunteer services.  It is also meant to act as a resource to mentor young people from different cultural backgrounds who want to volunteer in their own community, to help them learn and practice their language skills, and to increase knowledge of their own cultures of origin.  The guide was introduced to approximately 400 leaders and volunteers.  We are grateful for funding from the Government of Canada (New Horizons for Seniors Program) and United Way of Eastern Ontario.

Sharing Dance

Stemming from a successful partnership in Years One and Two, the SPCO is continued to work with Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) on their Sharing Dance for Seniors project, which is also in collaboration with Baycrest Health Sciences. This project is a safe and accessible dance program that engages older adults in meaningful dance activity that benefits physical, cognitive, and overall health.  Baycrest and NBS provide a weekly video dance class and funding for space, a facilitator (who provide assistance and interpretation), transportation, and refreshments. As of January, 2019, 8 ethno-cultural groups have taken part in the program, the feedback has been very positive from the participants and many shared that they appreciate the opportunity to dance, exercise, and socialize.  Sharing Dance is supported by Baycrest Health Sciences and Canada’s National Ballet School.

Ridgemont Intergenerational Project

Ten seniors took part in the Ridgemount High School’s intergenerational program. Working with 30 Grade 10 Communication Technology Students, the students helped seniors to share and tell their stories through a common theme connecting youth who are newcomers to Canada with seniors who immigrated to Canada for a comparison, and using video as the means to tell the story. The youth gained knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for employment – generally and specifically as videographers.  The final videos will be showcased in the new year.

Collectively We Care – Collectively We Help – Elder Abuse and Neglect in Ethno-Cultural Communities

In October, 2019 a very successful forum was hosted in part of a broader project developed by the Social Planning Council of Ottawa (SPCO) that wanted to empower, inform and educate ethnocultural seniors on what constitutes elder abuse and neglect, their rights when abuse occurs and available support services.

The project began as a response to the needs of 26 grassroots ethnocultural seniors’ groups that support ethnocultural seniors in Ottawa. Many of these ethnocultural seniors’ groups work together to prevent social isolation and address several needs of ethnocultural seniors. The idea of a forum became apparent after grassroots ethnocultural seniors’ groups showed immense interest in focus group discussions and presentations organized in collaboration with the SPCO. Many of the leaders of grassroots seniors’ groups were involved from the conception of the ideas that shaped the forum to its actual organization and delivery.  A simple language information sheet was created and translated into 10 languages along with 3 videos developed on financial and emotional abuse.  These resources will be used as part of the education campaign on elder abuse and neglect.  Funding has been provided by United Way of Eastern Ontario.


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