Social Isolation has been linked to the development of dementia, as well as depression, malnutrition, and falls in seniors. In our effort to fight dementia, and highlight unique community programmes, we are pleased to support Beyond The Conversation by highlighting it in Elder Voice.
In 2013 a Metro Vancouver Alliance survey asked seniors to identify the root causes of social isolation. The number one cause identified by respondents was “language barrier.” As a result, in 2015, at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood Association, “Beyond the Conversation” was born.95 seniors registered in the first month of launching and by April 2016 over 200 people had participated.
For most language programmes, the language itself is usually the primary focus. What makes Beyond the Conversation unique is that it uses the learning of English as a tool instead of a focus. Participants, often isolated, lonely seniors, meet other people, build relationships and make friendships. They develop informal social networks and confidence in their ability to function independently in the community. And they learn English.
Every participant comes to Beyond the Conversation with a different story, desire and dreams. But what they want at the end is similar–to contribute to their community, to give back, and to feel confidence, independence and connections.
Lily was one of those participants. She is in her 80’s, originally from Mainland China and still spoke no English after many years of living in Canada. After the twentieth week of classes she came up to her teacher very excitedly and said; “Teacher, teacher, I went to my doctor alone and ask her what medicine to take for my illness”. For the very first time in all Lily’s years in Canada, she mastered the courage to manage an appointment by herself, without having to rely on family members to interpret the message. With newly developing confidence in her ability to speak and understand English, Lily’s world expanded, and she felt happy, free and independent.
Currently Beyond the Conversation is held in twenty diverse locations including businesses, community centres, neighborhood houses, churches and local libraries. It is run by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer teams. A senior volunteer is paired with a younger facilitator; together they run the groups.
The vision of founder Amie Peacock is to eradicate social isolation. There are 6,000 people reportedly waiting to get into language training. Her goal is to open 100 locations in the Greater Vancouver. Any group or association can apply to host classes. To be a part of reducing social isolation, you can support Beyond the Conversation by volunteering to lead or hosts a class or participating in a class. Please contact Amie via text at 778.710.1499 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.