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Brightening the season for seniors

Be a Santa to a Senior gift-giving program goes virtual

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

This holiday season is going to look different for everyone, but as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, seniors across the Durham Region are especially at risk of significant challenges associated with isolation.

In years past, Home Instead has lifted the spirits of seniors, making them feel remembered and cherished, with its Be a Santa to a Senior program, in which the community can purchase gifts for seniors.

Community members would grab an ornament from Christmas trees located in retailers, purchase a gift and return it to be wrapped and gifted to a senior.

However, due to the pandemic, Cathy Dow, owner of Home Instead for Oshawa and the surrounding area, says they had to pivot the program and offer the program in a virtual capacity by partnering with Amazon Business.

“Recognizing the program’s importance, and particularly this year, and with the need to keep everyone safe, Home Instead partnered with Amazon for the first time,” she says. “We have still developed great relationships with local non-profits and organizations to facilitate the purchasing and distribution of gifts on the wish list – which is all done virtually.”

She says this year’s focus is on older adults who are living in long term care, as most are with restrictions and accessibility is very limited.

“It spreads holiday cheer and brightens the lives of our older adults who are alone or financially challenged during this season,” Dow adds, noting through this global pandemic, the feelings of isolation are amplified.

“Providing gifts and sense of community… that has always been there and so I think this year particularly will be very comforting to many.”

To help a senior this season, members of the community can visit the website and enter their postal code to view wish lists for local seniors on Amazon. A personalized greeting can be included with the gift which will be shipped directly to the senior.

Since the program began in 2003, Be a Santa to a Senior has provided approximately 2.1 million gifts and brightened the holiday season for more than 750,000 seniors nationwide.

“We need the community’s help more than ever to make sure seniors feel connected this year,”

Dow says. “This year we knew we had to find a way to spread holiday cheer to seniors, and we are grateful for the community’s participation.”