Somali-Canadian seniors face a number of challenges in their lives in Edmonton. We've partnered with the Somali-Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton to explore the needs of this group, and the wider implications of the lessons learned.
The Somali Canadian Seniors program has three key goals:
- to rekindle the role of Somali seniors as mentors to youth and other community members
- to reduce the isolation of seniors by bringing them together several times a week
- to engage the seniors in discussions and information sharing around their needs
Traditional cultural roles for elders include responsibilities for seniors to act as teachers, advisors, and mediators for the wider community. In their lives in Edmonton, though, many Somali Canadian seniors find themselves facing physical isolation across a disperse community, difficulties with transportation and weather conditions, and challenges connecting with other community members who, like many immigrant groups, are often working several jobs to make ends meet.
The seniors who have come together through this initative have achieved a number of creative outcomes and achievements. These include the creation of a ‘cultural box’ to be used in connection with the active role of seniors in traditional marriage practices, and the development of outreach practices amongst the seniors themselves, where seniors have taken it upon themselves to assist other seniors with limited English abilities or limited mobility. We have also worked with the seniors to produce a booklet of poetry, oral history, and personal narratives, which will serve as a key resource for the wider Somali community.
The program has been funded by New Horizons for Seniors (Canada), the Alberta Human Rights and Multiculturalism Education Fund, and a City of Edmonton Emerging Communities Partnership Grant.
How This Initiative Fits with Our Priorities
This program is a key part of CRC’s efforts to engage with the issues, strengths and concerns of Edmonton’s diverse communities. The program activities for participating seniors include weekly meetings for presentations from speakers, visits to senior centres and other facilities, and group dialogue, all of which are helping to foster community connection and provide information on how to improve access to services for seniors from Edmonton’s ethno-cultural communities.