Re-opening the door to the world for local seniors

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2012

Members of the YD Generations book club meet every week to discuss their most recent read. / Photo courtesy of the Yellow Door.

Centraide-supported Yellow Door provides vital services to people many have forgotten

By Neale McDevitt

The sad irony of the plight of many elderly people is that, after a lifetime spent being vital, contributing members of society, they are often neglected by the same community they helped build and maintain. Far too many languish in solitude, rarely leaving their small apartments, while others are placed in institutions where they are all but forgotten by friends and family. But the Yellow Door is trying to change both those realities, one senior at a time.

In 1972, the Yellow Door, the iconic Milton Park community organization with deep ties to McGill, began its Elderly Project. Originally, the program dispatched volunteers to the residences of seniors to help with various day-to-day tasks such as shopping, cleaning and escorting people to medical appointments. Often volunteers would just sit and chat for a few hours, providing much-needed friendship and social interaction.

“Back when we started the program, many of our clients were what people at the time called ‘shut-ins,’” says Piettro Bozzo, the Yellow Door’s Director. “The fear was if they didn’t receive any volunteer assistance most of those individuals 75 years old on over would eventually be institutionalized. We wanted to help them maintain their independence and avoid premature institutionalization.”

Over the years, the program has evolved and grown exponentially. Today, the program, which is now Called YD Generations, includes a network of more than 100 volunteers – of which Bozzo estimates 80-90 per cent are McGill students – who work with over 200 seniors.

On top of the original service of helping with day-to-day activities, the program also has a social club that offers activities ranging from workshops and yoga classes to art-based projects and excursions to museums.

Another branch of the YD Generations program called Access Internet sees volunteers visit seniors to teach them about how to use such tools as the Internet and Skype. “Like the rest of us, these clients want to stay connected to the outside world,” says Bozzo. “But a lot of them just don’t have the same computer skills.”

Of course, organizations like the Yellow Door cost money to operate and Bozzo says that 35 per cent of the Yellow Door’s funding comes from Centraide. “We rely heavily on this funding,” he says. “And it is particularly important in the Milton Park community where close to 60 per cent of residences are over 65 years old.

“YD Generations is designed to keep these people connected to the community and out of institutions,” says Bozzo. “When people give to Centraide they are helping us accomplish our mission.”

Centraide supports some 370 agencies throughout Montreal, the South Shore and Laval and helps about half a million people who need help in a wide variety of ways, under such umbrella issues as poverty, living conditions, the family, academic success and food security. The overall goal of this year’s Greater Montreal Centraide campaign is $60 million, $2 million more than last year. McGill’s target for its own campaign this year is $450,000.

The 2012 McGill Centraide Campaign is quickly drawing to a close. and McGillians are being asked to give whatever they can to support this important organization. To learn more about the McGill Centraide Campaign, including how to make a donation, go here.

To learn more about the Yellow Door, go here.

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