Youth and seniors in Port Dover help to prevent elderabuse through intergenerational art

The lives of Canadians are touched on a daily basis by HRSDC and its portfolio partners. This is a success story about Canadians who have changed their own lives, or those of others, through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.

The Lighthouse Festival Theatre is a professional theatre company in Port Dover, Ontario. It hosts an all-Canadian playbill, community fundraisers, concerts, high school classes, youth programs, meetings and other special events. In addition to these events, Operation Peacock: a Celebration of Elder Vibrancy was also featured at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre. The theatre received funding for Operation Peacock through the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.

The main goals of the project were to build relationships between generations, provide young people with mentors and educate the public about elder abuse and the isolation facing many seniors.

The Lighthouse Festival Theatre worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grand Erie, pairing senior artists with younger artists, called “Little Brothers” and “Little Sisters,” to create original works of art. The art was then sold at a silent auction at the theatre, which raised $2,000 to support the Seniors Safety Line. The Seniors Safety Line is a toll-free, confidential resource for seniors in Ontario suffering from abuse, including financial, physical, sexual or mental abuse and neglect.

Helen Wagenaar, Administrative Director at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre, said that the theatre has a strong tie to seniors.“Lighthouse is dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors in our community, especially when it comes to raising awareness of elder abuse,” said Helen.

Kit Julian is a former Executive Director of the Alzheimer Society of Haldimand Norfolk, an advocate for not-for-profit agencies and the artistic community and project coordinator for Operation Peacock. She said that “creating an interaction between young people and older adults, whether vulnerable or not, is a joyful, uplifting, and edifying message for the future.”

Both Helen and Kit thought the project was a tremendous success. “This project heightened awareness of the seniors’ hotline. Most people we encountered did not know the hotline existed,” said Kit. “Younger people who had never interacted with seniors gained new friends and will continue to see older adults in a very different light. We could write a novel about the jokes, laughs, coincidences, kindnesses, optimism and success of this relatively small project,” she added.

“This project helped seniors connect with younger people and find common ground through art,” said Helen. “It also helped raise important issues, including the prevention of elder abuse, reducing isolation and recognizing vibrant seniors for their skills and ability to mentor younger people.”

In order to share and build upon the project’s success, the creative process was filmed, compiled and a series of video clips have been posted on YouTube to be used as a template for other communities interested in undertaking a similar project. To watch Operation Peacock, click here. (Note that by clicking on this link you are leaving the Government of Canada’s website and are entering a site not subject to the Official Languages Act. The videos are available in English only.)

The Seniors Safety Line can be reached at 1-866-299-1011 and is operated in association with the Assaulted Women’s Help Line.

The New Horizons for Seniors Program is a federal grants and contributions program that supports projects led or inspired by seniors who want to make a difference in the lives of others and in their communities. This project meets the program’s objectives of encouraging seniors to share their knowledge, skills, and experience with others to enhance seniors’ well-being and reduce social isolation.

Click here to see more New Horizons for Seniors success stores.