Somali-Canadian Seniors Program

Somali-Canadian Seniors Program

Increasing the inclusion of seniors from Edmonton’s ethnocultural communities.


Initiative Background

Somali-Canadian seniors face many challenges in their lives in Edmonton. We 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, many Somali-Canadian seniors find themselves facing:

  • Physical isolation across a dispersed community
  • Difficulties with transportation and weather conditions
  • Challenges connecting with other community members who, like many immigrant groups, often work several jobs to make ends meet.

The seniors who have come together through this initiative achieved many creative outcomes and achievements. These included creating a ‘cultural box’ 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 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.

Initiative Funders

The program was funded by New Horizons for Seniors (Canada), the Alberta Human Rights and Multiculturalism Education Fund, and a City of Edmonton Emerging Communities Partnership Grant.