Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the minister for spending time with us this afternoon to talk about our important study.
I want to read something to the minister from a recent pamphlet the United Way Elgin Middlesex distributed in my area. The pamphlet is actually called “The #LocalLove Letter”. It outlines some of the amazing programs the United Way and other agencies have been able to provide to our seniors during this obviously challenging time. Specifically, I'd like to read about program funding through your department's new horizons for seniors program. It reads as follows:
Since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian Mental Health Association [Middlesex] has seen a 43 percent increase in calls to The Support Line, many coming from seniors who are feeling scared, vulnerable, lonely....
Lori Hassall, the director of crisis and short-term interventions at CMHA, says, “It was an issue even before the pandemic. We were already hearing from a lot of seniors who would call every day just to talk to someone.”
A $10,000 grant from United Way, through the Government of Canada's seniors response fund, helped CMHA launch “Friendly Callers”, a new outreach program matching trained volunteers with seniors across Elgin and Middlesex counties.
The weekly call was a chance to check in and connect seniors to local services, such as Meals on Wheels, neighbourhood-based resources or the City of London age friendly network, to ensure that they were getting the support they needed.
There's so much research now about the impact of loneliness on physical and mental health.... Social connection is the antidote....
I want to ask the minister if this story reflects some of what she has heard about how our government funding through this pandemic has helped seniors across the country.