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Staying Active and Connected

I have always been a gregarious person, so the pandemic proved especially tough for me. Here I was confined all alone inside the seniors’ home where I was living. I felt like a prisoner.

Until then, I led an interesting life. I had two children from my first marriage, including a son who was born with a disability. I later divorced and remarried and had another son. In 2016, both my eldest son and my husband died, while my daughter fought a hard battle against cancer, but she recovered.

After working in a hospital, I helped set up and manage a local community service centre. I was involved with a number of organizations. Then the pandemic hit.

A United Way-funded agency found a way to help us exercise. They would set up in the parking lot and give us instructions by loudspeaker and we would follow them from our balconies. Later they added music. Because of that we no longer felt so alone.

It led me to retake control over my life. I left the home to get my own place.

Some of my friends were active in the agency that had provided the services. They knew about my life and work experience. An invitation from the director led to a meeting and, eventually, I ran for the board of directors and became treasurer.

We have around 1,200 members today and I fully expect that we will reach 2,000 in the near future. We have a terrific team with people who really want to help seniors through activities such as lectures, coffee meetings, workshops, dance classes, community gardens and shared cooking.

As I meet more and more people as part of these activities, I’m seeing that many seniors are unsure how to access services that can help them stay independent. It feels good to be able to help in that regard.

I couldn’t thank United Way enough for supporting our organization. Without these funds, it would have been impossible to offer services during the pandemic. Not only have I found a new life, but I’ve also regained my confidence. I know that the pandemic won’t last forever.

You have to keep your chin up, look positively at life and tell yourself that things will get better. One of my core values is about helping others. That’s essential because it makes me feel strong and useful. Even if you’re sad inside, you can smile at someone and cheer them up. A simple ‘Hi’ can break the isolation.

- Colette
United Way program participant