'Be a Santa to a Senior' program is back, collecting gifts for seniors who experience holiday loneliness

It's troubling to think that anybody who cherishes Christmas time might go without a gift, but it happens, particularly to seniors, many of whom live in isolation — especially this year, when everyone is limiting their social activities.

Home Instead Senior Care in Tecumseh has been running this program for a decade

The program aims to assist older adults who feel lonely or are isolated during this time of year by delivering gift packages to them donated by the community. (Myriam Fimbry/Radio-Canada)

It's a troubling time for hundreds of seniors in Windsor-Essex who report feeling lonely during this time of year, many of whom live in isolation.

Experts say this feeling of loneliness is heightened this year with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic where people are being more careful and limiting their social interactions.

This is where "Be a Santa to a Senior" program comes into play. It's run by Home Instead, a seniors' care business, and aims to assist older adults who feel lonely or are isolated during this time of year by delivering gift packages to them donated by the community.

"This pandemic has certainly hit our seniors a lot harder than a lot of other populations," said Colleen Jershy, a co-owner of the business in Tecumseh, Ont. "A lot of them are already isolated. A lot of them have family from out of town ... Everybody doesn't want to get anybody sick and so really they've had a lot of social isolation."

She also said there are seniors who don't have any family or anyone to visit.

"We've even had a lot of people they call and they nominate themselves for the program. And they will tell us, you know, 'I listened to the radio, I heard about the program, I don't have anybody.' So, you know, it's very difficult to hear, but at least we can provide a little bit of light to them," she said.

Jershy explains how the program works: they collect gift packages and deliver it to those who are financially challenged, isolated and lonely during the holiday season. Some highly requested items include: blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, toiletry, activity books and gift cards. 

She said those who are looking to donate can "sponsor as many people as possible" and drop off the items they want to donate outside of their office at 1071 Lesperance Rd. They also accept cash donations.

This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the program and they're looking to assist 1,616 people. They're accepting gifts until Dec. 4.


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