Neighbours’ group helps lone seniors.

Winnipeg Free Press, Monday January 15, 2011. Reproduced with permission.
By: Matt Preprost. Photos: Mike Deal

United Way donates $50K

Marie Joss has seen her share of friends, neighbours and even her own mother fall victim to depression as a result of social isolation as they grew older.

But the 80-year-old widow made a commitment to herself when her husband died almost 30 years ago to not let that happen to her.

So Joss kept active, volunteering her time to charities and non-profit organizations around the city and, more recently, has been an active member of the Good Neighbours Active Living Centre in East Kildonan. “I had my mother in a nursing home for four years… she was crippled, blind and totally bedridden. It was very hard to deal with,” said Joss, who has lived on her own since 1987. “Nothing made her happy, and I said to myself, hopefully I don’t get to that stage. The centre serves more than 1,000 clients, says outreach co-ordinator Julie Kertesz.

Julie Kertesz is the outreach coordinator for the Good Neighbours Active Living Centre

Julie Kertesz is the outreach coordinator for the Good Neighbours Active Living Centre

The 20-year-old organization, which received $50,000 in support from the United Way in 2010, offers programs like weekly lunches and monthly outings to address the physical, social and spiritual needs for seniors at risk of social isolation.

“It gives people a reason to get up and get something to do,” said Kertesz. “People, if they don’t socialize and get out, they’re at risk for a number of things. They’re not physically active so there’s a risk of diabetes and health-related issues, depression and addictions.”

The United Way’s contributions to Good Neighbours started seven years ago to create the centre’s outreach position. The continued support is “crucial” to keep an important lifeline for seniors alive, Kertesz said.

“Because we’re non-profit, we’re always fundraising just to keep the centre going,” she said. “Without them, don’t know where the funding would come from or this position and if the position wasn’t able to run, it would be awful.

“If we don’t even have the lunch going for one week, people miss it terribly. For a lot of the seniors, this is the only time they get out.”

While Joss admits she’s more socially active than many of her neighbours in the seniors’ living centre for veterans’ spouses where she lives, times do get lonely.

“It’s that one day a week you look forward to, that one day you know you have to get dressed and go,” she said. “It helps you mentally really. I find it hard at night when no one’s around, especially winter when you can’t get out.

“They keep me occupied and doing things. It takes my mind off the aches and pains, which I have lots of,” she laughed.