A territory-wide program where locals check in with Elders to provide social interaction and prevent loneliness is expanding to Fort Liard and Nahanni Butte.
Working Together with Elders, a program supported by the NWT Seniors’ Society and partners, sees facilitators plan regular check-ins and culturally relevant events to help Elders’ mental health.
“It’s very, very important when the community facilitators reach out to the Elders so the Elders don’t feel left behind,” said Suzette Montreuil, the society’s executive director.
“It can go from an arts and craft night or a lunch barbecue to bingo or a traditional camp on the land.”
Fort Liard and Nahanni Butte were recently added after two other NWT communities left the program, which accommodates 10 communities in all.
The social isolation of seniors was a concern before the pandemic began. According to the federal government, “about 30 percent of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated” even without recent public health measures designed to keep people apart.
During the current territory-wide wave of Covid-19, most Elders stay in touch by phone as gatherings are limited.
Community facilitators have been gathering supplies and dropping them off so Elders can take part in activities at home.
Montreuil acknowledged the program is “not at its best” during the pandemic as public health measures must be followed. She said she was excited to see how the program evolves in Dehcho communities once those measures lift and more events can be held.
The program has been running since the fall of 2020 and has funding from the federal New Horizons for Seniors program until the fall of 2023.