Honouring our elders

Ghana Association of Hamilton’s program helps isolated seniors find hope.

When the pandemic hit, Comfort Boateng pressed pause on her once active life. “There was nowhere to go. I’d get up late, then just sit and watch TV until night would come.”

All that changed when she joined the Ghana Association of Hamilton’s Honouring Our Elders program, which provided seniors with a tablet and tech support, virtual fitness classes and information sessions, vouchers to Ghanaian food stores, and transportation from volunteer drivers. Close to 60 seniors participated, with 29 receiving a tablet.

“Now I get up in the morning to get ready for my Zoom exercise class,” Comfort says. “I use WhatsApp to message my grandchildren. I do Bible study with other seniors. It makes you much more active.”

The pandemic has disproportionately affected immigrant seniors, with many experiencing loneliness. Causes include lack of opportunities to socialize, inadequate incomes and limited access to transportation.

Florence Opoku, a frequent mallwalker before the pandemic, attributes her improved mobility and balance to the fitness program. She also recognizes the broader social benefits. “Some of the ladies came from West Africa to visit their children and help with their grandchildren,” she says.

“Isolation from the lockdowns had a great impact on them. The Zoom activities brought us together.”

HCF support came from the Pandemic Response Fund. Grassroots cultural groups often serve communities not typically supported by HCF funding. As part of its goal to increase accessibility to grant opportunities, HCF has recently expanded its outreach to these groups and is working to reduce barriers.

“HCF emailed me, but I didn’t think we would qualify because we aren’t a charity,” says association president Comfort Afari, affectionately known as Mama Cee. She was surprised to learn they could get a fiscal sponsor, and it could be a church. She approached the Church of Pentecost, who agreed to sponsor the program and joined its advisory board.

“We recognize that COVID has affected our elders and wanted them to feel they are an important part of our community,” says Mama Cee. “Leaders from London and Toronto have called me to say, ‘This is amazing. It’s the first of its kind. Tell us how you started it.’”

Excerpt from 2021-2022 Annual Report