The central mission of the Centre is to make mindfulness programs available to everyone. Through our Social Program we try to do just that.
An example of our work in the community was the recently completed MBCT Program for Seniors. Funded by the New Horizons for Seniors Program and in partnership with Unison Health and Community Services and Housing Services Corporation, we implemented 2 consecutive MBCT programs for seniors in the Lawrence Heights community.
The group referred to themselves as the “Forever Young Seniors” and many of them were living in poverty, managing physical limitations, pain and mental and emotional distress. To our surprise, stress was not their primary challenge. In fact, most participants showed up each week with great enthusiasm, warmth and humor.
Three facts about this community became clear from the onset:
1. They loved snack time.
2. They needed to move their bodies.
3. They were all experiencing moderate to extreme isolation.
Which brings me back to 1: they loved snack time. This mid-way break in our session gave the group the opportunity to connect. So simple, but not so easy for individuals that are often alone and for whom mobility and access to engaging social programs is severely limited. They shared recipes and stories about their lives, particularly about their children and grandchildren or their spouses. Many of them were reminiscing about estranged or deceased loved ones.
It was clear that for this group the ability to just share stories with each other was absolutely essential. During our sessions, when emotions and difficult thoughts naturally lead into a story, the facilitators, Ronit and Ellen, created a platform for them to be heard, held and affirmed by the group.
We went into the program under the assumption that a mindfulness intervention could reduce this group’s stress and came out the other end learning a great deal about how to reduce our own: sometimes our greatest need is to be seen and heard by others, nothing more, nothing less. And we can never achieve this alone.