Nicole has spearheaded HelpAge Canada’s Digital Literacy programs since joining the organization in July 2020. This includes leading the development and delivery of the pan-Canadian Dig-IT program which provides tablets, data and digital literacy education paired with volunteer support to low-income seniors; as well as the Connected Elders and Youth program, a unique intergenerational digital learning program being delivered in eight communities that incorporates Inuit guiding principles for societal values, employs youth in each community as digital mentors and provides over 250 devices.
In addition to digital literacy, Nicole is overseeing HelpAge Canada’s granting program that combats social exclusion and creates innovative programming for low-income older Canadians, and is leading work related to Age-friendly transportation.
Prior to joining HelpAge Canada, Nicole worked to ensure diversity at the most senior levels of organizations across Canada, as an executive search consultant with a Diversity and Indigenous search practice. Working with organizations and communities coast to coast to coast has given Nicole an appreciation for the diversity of cultures and the disparity of needs in Canada. This drives her to ensure that both existing and new HelpAge Canada programs best respond to the priorities of older adults as they identify them, and the communities of which they are apart.
Seniors can! – Social inclusion for low-income older Canadians
Nicole Perry, HelpAge Canada, Canada
Seniors Can! (Aînés Debout!) is an initiative of HelpAge Canada designed to help low-income seniors across Canada avoid isolation and loneliness and to engage more fully with their communities. A national granting program, Seniors Can! provides mobility and communication enhancing equipment or devices, dental care, and or social services such as transportation, delivered meals, program/ activity memberships, etc. Grants also support the creation of innovative social programming for seniors and emergency relief services such as was required during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the establishment of this program in 2020; HelpAge Canada has gained a national understanding of barriers and enablers of social participation and inclusion. Though Canada has a strong social safety net with the Old Age Security Program and Guaranteed Income Supplement, nearly 2 million seniors still live on roughly $17,000 per year, even though the most basic standard of living in Canada calculated at $18,000 per year for a single person. Further, eligibility varies by province for financial support for devices, dental care, or the availability of programming. As a result, older people may still be making choices between food, health and medication or have limited options to engage with community because of mobility, communication or other restrictions.
Our poster is an infographic that depicts a community, isolated seniors living in that community, and points out how circumstances, settings and other challenges affiliated with aging and low socio-economic status inhibit social participation for low-income older adults. The poster also outlines the consequences for older adults living below the poverty line, namely isolation and loneliness and reduced health, happiness, and wellbeing. Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. social supports Seniors Can! grants directly address this outcome by directly supporting social inclusion and belonging.
This poster puts a spotlight on common challenges faced by low-income seniors in a Canadian context and will promote discussions about the value of inclusion, systemic barriers to overcoming poverty, and cast spotlight on the negative outcomes for individuals aging in poverty.