Services for newcomer older adults

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Immigrants who are 55 and older may find that their settlement experience can be more of a challenge compared to their younger counterparts. According to Chris Friesen, director of settlement services for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., “immigrants and refugees who come to Canada later in life face unique challenges in terms of income, livelihood and social integration” (Many older Canadian immigrants live on less than $11,000 per year, Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun). This is especially true of newcomers who do not belong to Canada’s larger ethnocultural communities, and thus have lesser chances to be part of an established social network.

English equals integration

Reports show that many experience culture shock and isolation, especially because of the language barrier. Newcomers who can’t understand or speak English are not able to relate to their new community, and so they would rather stay cooped up at home. This may lead to depression and other health problems related to stress and anxiety. More importantly, this cuts their opportunity to continue living productive and active lives.

If you are an older adult immigrant in Manitoba, you do not need to succumb to this pattern of despair. There are many programs and services for you in the province that provide assistance and support for continued learning, immersion in the community, recreation, and other avenues for growth. Manitoba has even implemented the Age-Friendly Manitoba initiative, which is a project that pushes for communities to become socially inclusive and physically accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Watch the following video to know how this initiative works:

Here are other programs you can avail to support your successful and fruitful integration in Manitoba:

  1. Language training

    Having the ability to understand and speak English is a crucial skill for older adults immigrating to Manitoba. It is the key to fully integrating into Canadian life and culture. You need English to be able to understand and communicate with your grandchildren, speak to your neighbors, become more involved in the community, and to get employed.

    There are several language programs in the province that are tailor-fitted to your needs. A good example is A&O Support Services for Older Adults’ English Conversation Circles which is a free, 10-week program that hones your English conversational skills, whether you are a beginner or an intermediate language learner. You can go to this page: Senior Immigrant Settlement Services to check their courses and register with them. You can also inquire at senior centres or immigrant serving organizations nearest you for English language programs you can enroll in. Meanwhile, English Online’s flexible and free language courses can be seen here.

    To supplement your classes, you can get your library card and start reading books at your local library, or better yet, join their book club. Everyday habits like listening to English songs, watching TV shows or movies, or reading story books to your grandchildren, will speed up your proficiency. For other ideas for improving your English, read the article 10 easy ways to improve your English.

  2. Recreational activities

    Staying busy and interacting with others will help keep your mind active and chase your worries and sadness away. Start by exploring your neighborhood by taking walks or playing with your grandchildren at the park. You can also join your community group for yoga or meditation for recreation and expanding your network. You can check your community centre, senior centre or the Leisure guide if you’re in Winnipeg, for group activities.

  3. Volunteering and mentoring

    Your community will definitely benefit from your experience and wisdom. Share your time at your community center, church or even immigrant serving organizations. Your ability to speak your native language can be an advantage when helping out and connecting with other immigrants from your home country.

    You can also check out the Senior Scope website for lists of events, programs, services, social activities, and volunteering opportunities for seniors 55 and over.

  4. Health care

    Continue to take care of your health by watching what you eat and exercising. Based on Manitoba.ca (Healthy Living and Seniors), older adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more to achieve health benefits and improve functional abilities. It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least two days per week.

    Also, learn about your Manitoba health care coverage to be aware of your options (read the article 5 important facts about your Manitoba Health Care coverage). Meanwhile, the Transportation Options Network for Seniors (TONS) is groundbreaking initiative that provides transportation options if you have to go for regular check-ups, medical care, or other places you need to go to even when you are in rural Manitoba.

  5. Skills training

    No one is too old to learn new skills. Aside from building your language proficiency, you can also learn new arts and crafts, gain computer skills so that you’ll have a new avenue to connect with others, or pick up a new sport like golf or fishing. Creative Retirement, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing activities that are not only fun but venues for life-long learning, is a good group to connect with. They have programs that cater to various interests, offered at affordable prices. If you wish to gain digital skills, from learning how to use the computer to internet and word processing, contact the Winnipeg Public Library to join free computer workshops.

    If you are intending to build skills for employment, you can check out the Manitoba.ca page for Career Development to read up on strategies, resources and even a job banks listing to assist you in your preparation for your eventual return to the workforce.

It is important to be aware of programs and services in your area. For instance, you can check out senior centres all over Manitoba. These are community focal points where you can drop in to avail of programs and services which may include physical activity opportunity (ex: fitness or dance classes), health and wellness programs, and information and referrals. You can download the Seniors Guide for a list of these centres, as well as senior organizations and other supports.

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Community Resources

Seniors’ Guidebook for Safety and Security was developed by RCMP for guidance. You can download the pamphlet through the link.

Senior Centre Without Walls is an A&O Support Services for Older Adults program that offers free educational and recreational programs over the phone.  Call 204-956-6440 or go to A&O Support Services for Older Adults for more information.

Winnipeg Seniors’ Housing and Rural Seniors’ Housing are directories that contain information on various housing options for seniors.

Love for music and sharing their gift have helped these seniors lead active and purposeful lives. Watch them participate in the Manitoba Seniors Music Festival.

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