A Second Home for Seniors

Profile on York West Active Living Centre

For the past 35 years, York West Active Living Centre has been an anchor in the community of Weston, a neighbourly pocket in north west Toronto dotted with historic architectural buildings, old churches and tall, mature trees.

Located at the community’s main intersection, York West offers health and wellness programming, education and socialization for adults aged 55+ and up. This Centre has over 1,200 active members and sees up to 175 people coming through its doors each day, who meet friends for breakfast, partake in chair yoga, learn Spanish, take workshops on fall prevention and more.

According to Suzanne Teixeira, the Centre’s Executive Director, York West sees a wide variety of clients, all with different needs.  “Our baby boomers come in, do their activity and they’re out,” says Suzanne. “Our clients that are between 70 and 80 are still fairly active, and they tend to be here a bit longer. Our older clients, 85+, are starting to slow down a bit but still want to be active. Those are the ones that are here for breakfast, lunch and if we had, they would be here for dinner. They’re here all day.”

For the past 12 years, Second Harvest has delivered a variety of fresh, healthy produce for the agency’s 1,200 members every week, along with prepared trays of meals through the Second Harvest’s Harvest Kitchens program for York West’s weekday lunch service.

The community of Weston is a very economically challenged area. “Many of our members can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Food costs are going up and the food we provide through Second Harvest goes a long way. We have a lot of people who are living on the poverty line, if not below it. So, for them to come and get their apple three or four days a week – that’s their fruit for the week. Same with a hot lunch. Many of our clients don’t eat hot meals at home so they come here and get their hot meal for the day. So we know they’re being nourished at least once a day properly,” notes Suzanne.

Above: Rita speaking with a client; Clients in Spanish class

According to Rita Orellana, Manager of Direct Services, the majority of the Centre’s programs are aimed at promoting socialization. “We offer activities and workshops for every interest: bridge, cribbage, scrabble; lessons on how to use Facebook, navigating Toronto’s garbage system, how to dress at 55+, language classes and a myriad of fitness classes. All of our programming is aimed at strengthening social bonds and getting seniors active and engaged.”

Clients partaking in a fitness class at York West Active Living Centre

Senior isolation is an ever-present issue that York West constantly strives to address. Suzanne explains, “We have a number of members who started out being very isolated. We worked towards building up the relationship with the individual and then slowly encouraging them to come out by phoning them a few times a week. And once they got here, we noticed a change in them. It’s a long process to get an isolated individual out and involved in our programs, but it’s a rewarding one. And whether they just come out for five minutes or for the full day, the point is that they came out. And a lot of that has to do with food.”