Celebrating outstanding seniors
A refugee who created a support group to help reduce the isolation felt by many senior newcomer women, and an award-winning writer who has authored three novels aimed at educating youth and increasing understanding and empathy about the history of Indigenous people are among a group of seniors who have been recognized by the province.
The Province of Ontario recently awarded 20 outstanding seniors with the Senior Achievement Award for their significant contributions to their communities and the province.
The Senior Achievement Award is the highest provincial honour for people aged 65 and older and is presented each year by the Lieutenant Governor.
The awards have been given out to remarkable seniors since 1986.
“Congratulations to this year’s Ontario Senior Achievement Award recipients. It is an honour to recognize these 20 amazing individuals who have given back to their communities with their time, talents, wisdom and compassion,” says Dipika Damerla, minister responsible for Seniors Affairs.
“They are excellent examples of modern, active seniors who are engaged in making our province a better place. I am certain that Ontarians of all ages will be inspired by their actions.”
There are currently more seniors aged 65 and older than children under the age of 15 both in Ontario and across the country. The province is currently home to more than two million seniors, and this number is expected to double in the next 25 years.
Russell Peters Alldread of Toronto is an advocate for gay and lesbian awareness who volunteers with The Imperial Court of Toronto and the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives. As Michelle DuBarry, his world-famous drag persona, he has hosted and performed at many charitable benefit functions. In February 2016, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for World’s Oldest Drag Queen, and made history again in June by being the first drag queen to appear in Zoomer Magazine.
Keshubhai Chaudhari of Vaughan volunteers at the Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women. He helps connect Gujarati families to local programs and services. He founded the Centre’s Garba and Dandiya Raas annual South Asian traditional dance event. He is an active member in the community whose efforts include helping vulnerable seniors and encouraging people to vote.
Jennifer Dance of Stouffville is an award-winning writer who has dedicated much of her life to eliminating racial bias and raising awareness about racism. She is the author of three novels aimed at educating youth and increasing understanding and empathy about the history of Indigenous people. Jennifer also gives classroom presentations at schools across Ontario that use her books in their curriculums.
Dalton Hazzard of North Bay has tended to local outdoor ice rinks for more than 40 years. The work involves getting up early in the morning, cleaning the ice surface and flooding the rink so that children and families have a safe place to skate and play hockey. He also takes care of the lawns and flower gardens at his local Legion.
Wilma Lambert of London has volunteered with the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex for 23 years. She developed the curriculum for their Generation Link program, where high school students partner with Alzheimer Society clients to create memory scrapbooks. She also started the Intergenerational Choir, where Alzheimer Society clients, their caregivers, students and community members take part in weekly choir practice.
Walter Bruce Logan of Brampton volunteers with stroke patients to support them in their recovery. He volunteers with the Peers Fostering Hope program and March of Dimes. He has also volunteered more than 370 hours at the Region of Peel’s Senior Services Development Division’s Aphasia program over the past two years.
Iqbal Mahal of Brampton is a leader in the South Asian community. He hosted and produced Punjabi television and radio programs to promote and preserve Punjabi culture, raise awareness of issues in the community and support newcomers. He also organizes annual radiothons to raise money and collect food for various food banks. In 2012, his radiothon raised over $120,000 and 65,000 pounds of food for the Mississauga Food Bank.
Robert (Bob) Ogilvie of the Madawaska Valley is a founding member of the Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care program that provides community-based and hospital-based hospice palliative services in rural eastern Ontario. Under his leadership, the program successfully opened a two-bed hospice suite that was built and furnished through community donations.
Terry Rutledge of London has volunteered with the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex since 2011. He participates in the Volunteer Companion Program, where he visits three clients with dementia in their homes each week to provide friendship, companionship and relief to caregivers.
Filoteo Silvestri of Mississauga is an active member of the Resident’s Council at the Villa Forum Long-Term Care Home. He does daily morning announcements for residents, staff and visitors in English and Italian. He welcomes new residents and introduces them to others. He has also translated for residents and helped those who need assistance eating and drinking.
Katherine Smith of London is a community leader and advocate for improving the quality of life for older adults in London. She builds bridges between arts, culture and health as a way to encourage marginalized or isolated older adults to participate in their communities. She founded the London Creative Age Network, the London Creative Age Festival and the London Creative Age Marketplace.
Russell H. Smith of Oshawa is a 96-year-old World War II veteran who became a school volunteer with the Durham Catholic District School Board through the Memory Project. He currently volunteers each week at St. John Paul II Catholic School in grade 1, 2 and 3 classrooms, and he lays the wreath at their annual Remembrance Day ceremony. He has also volunteered at St. John Bosco Catholic School.
Elizabeth (Betty) South of Kitchener has volunteered at Grand River Hospital’s Freeport Campus every Monday for 39 consecutive years. Her current volunteer work includes delivering flowers to new patients, training new volunteers, keeping display boards updated with current information and maintaining the patient library. She has also conducted tours, helped in the gift shop and edited newsletters, among other activities.
Amleset Tesfay of Toronto came to Canada as a refugee. She created the Eritrean Seniors Women Support Group to help reduce the isolation felt by many senior newcomer women. Through this group, participants have the opportunity to socialize with one another and learn about the social support services available to them. Amleset also helps isolated and marginalized older adults on a one-on-one basis.
Jeanette C. Truex of Guelph started the 1*2*3*GO! program when she retired in 2002. She still volunteers and provides leadership for the program to this day. The program helps prepare three-year-olds for junior kindergarten by familiarizing them with a learning environment. Along with an assistant, she teaches letters and numbers, art, science and social skills.
Marlene Tynan of Bracebridge volunteers at the Pines Long-Term Care Home almost every day. Her volunteer work includes chaperoning bus trips, facilitating programs and special events and helping during meal times. She also reads to residents one-on-one, sometimes for up to five hours at a time, and serves as part of the home’s palliative care team.
Moon Ai Sook Yoon of Toronto is a community leader and founding pastor of Ahn Neong church. She helped oversee the creation of the Rose of Sharon Nursing Home for Korean Canadians and the accompanying fundraising efforts to support it. She also volunteers to ensure educational, recreational and music programs are available for seniors in the Korean community on a year-round basis.
The following award will be presented posthumously: Min Katz of Toronto created the We Care program to help older adults who are in need of basic necessities. She organized fundraisers, food drives and other events to help raise money for vulnerable seniors. She raised over $8,300 to support local older adults in need.