Guest Blog by Pat Spadafora
I am excited about my upcoming conversation with representatives of faith communities at Grace Lutheran Church (1107 Main Street West) in Hamilton from 5-7 P.M. on September 26th. 
You might wonder why I am excited so let me start with a brief background.
Between May 2016 and March 2019, 7 partner organizations came together to lead the Hamilton Seniors’ Isolation Impact Plan (HSIIP). The overarching goals of the plan were to measurably reduce social isolation among adults 55+, to build the community’s capacity to identify, reach and connect isolated older adults and to prevent isolation in the future. The 3-year project, funded by the Canadian government’s New Horizons for Seniors program was subsequently extended until the end of December 2019.
Addressing social isolation is integral to supporting people of all ages but, given the particular risk factors for older adults, it is especially important to seek strategies for inclusion. The extra time offered by the grant extension is a gift, a time for our community to collaboratively explore possibilities.
The focus of the extension includes sharing knowledge and results of the 3-year project with various sectors in Hamilton, creating tools that can be used in our community and planning for sustainability. Recognizing that one cannot depend on funding alone to support initiatives, I have spent a good part of the past three months exploring no-cost and low-cost ideas to support older adults who are experiencing or, are at risk of experiencing, social isolation.
Back to my excitement about meeting with leaders from Hamilton faith communities! The more I think about community engagement and encouraging social inclusion – my preference is to focus on inclusion, not exclusion – the potential for faith communities to be gathering points, hubs, keeps coming to the fore. I know some faith communities already function as neighbourhood hubs but is there more that can be done? At our event on September 26th, I hope you will share your experience and, as a group, generate additional ideas about the role of faith communities hubs for people of all ages. I’m especially interested in your ideas about bringing generations together. We know, from research evidence, that connecting generations not only mitigates against social isolation, it also reduces ageism.
Let me give you one example of an initiative that a faith community might want to consider leading in Hamilton. A colleague recently brought my attention to a ‘No Senior Eats Alone Day’ that just took place in the U.S. The Baltimore County Department of Aging (BCDA) invited everyone to participate in ‘No Senior Eats Alone Day’ during the week of September 9th through 15th. The goal was to help older adults to feel valued and socially connected and to establish better eating habits while improving nutrition and health. This is just one possibility! I look forward to the conversation on September 26th – bring your ideas!
Hamilton Seniors Isolation Impact Plan (ISIIP) extension project.