ESCC Spotlight on the Shaama Centre: A Model for Diversity in the Older Adult Community
As the world's population ages, there is an increasing need to address the unique challenges that older adults face. In Alberta, the aging population is becoming more diverse, with different ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds.
However, older adults from diverse backgrounds may experience isolation and loneliness due to language barriers, cultural differences, and other factors. Additionally, they may be more susceptible to elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. As such, it is important to provide older adults with resources and support to help them maintain their physical and mental health, stay connected with their communities, and prevent abuse and neglect.
In Edmonton, the Seniors Coordinating Council (ESCC) works to support older adults and address the challenges they face. The ESCC focuses on issues such as social isolation, health, housing, transportation, and more. We also work to ensure that older adults from diverse backgrounds have access to the resources and support they need.
One organization that is making a significant difference in the lives of older adults from diverse backgrounds is the Shaama Centre. The Shaama Centre is a community-based organization that provides a range of services to older adults from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The organization offers language classes, cultural programs, social events, and more to help older adults maintain their cultural connections and stay connected with their communities.
"Human beings are social animals and being connected to others socially is a fundamental human need," states Executive Director of the Shaama Centre, Sofia Yaqub.
The Shaama Centre is also working to address some of the unique challenges that older adults from diverse backgrounds face. For example, the organization provides translation services to help older adults access healthcare and other services. Additionally, they offer support to older adults who may be experiencing abuse or neglect.
The centre creates opportunities for older adults and women to share their stories in an annual magazine called Reflection, participate in intergenerational activities, mentor youth, teach heritage languages to the younger generation, become leaders/educators, volunteer and contribute. These activities make older adults feel valued and included, and help them experience a real sense of belonging. The centre also offers sewing classes and promotes income-generating activities, such as catering, sewing/tailoring, and traditional crafts.
The Shaama Centre also raises awareness about elder abuse and domestic violence through skits and videos translated in Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi. The drama club members write, direct, and perform these skits and videos, and they are happy to do live performances in the spring.
It's critical that we address these disparities and work to ensure that all older adults can age with dignity and agency. By promoting and supporting diversity and inclusivity in our policies and programs, we can create a more equitable and just society for older adults of all backgrounds. The Shaama Centre is a model for diversity in the older adult community. It is an inclusive, welcoming space where older adults and women from all communities feel valued, included, and connected to the community.
The centre serves as an example of what can be achieved through collaboration, referrals, and partnerships. The centre is an essential asset to the community-based seniors serving sector space, and it is fundamental for the well-being and health of diverse older adults in Edmonton. The Shaama Centre is not just a place for services and programs, but it is a community, a home away from home.
"The Shaama Centre has deep roots in the community, understands the South Asian culture, has a strong volunteer base and staff, many of whom speak the language. It is also a place where diverse cultures, faiths, customs, and traditions are valued and embraced. The Centre remains committed to providing holistic and individualized services and supports to all who come to our door," says Yaqub.
The challenges faced by older adults from diverse backgrounds are complex and multifaceted. By working together and providing older adults with the resources and support they need, we can help to ensure that all older adults can continue to flourish in their later years.