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Michael Jesso’s Fabulous, Derailed – The Littlest Things Create So Much Happiness

When you think of the people in Fort McMurray, your first thoughts are always young people, young families, and young couples up to their 30s and 40s; not much thought ever goes to the senior citizens of the region.

If I were to tell you there are around 10,000 senior citizens in the Wood Buffalo region, would you believe me? Well, there are, and they need our help.

Enter St. Aidan’s. A few weeks ago, I was asked to volunteer through a partnership with RE/MAX Fort McMurray and the St. Aidan’s Society Age Well at Home program. A group of us got together and used the teaching kitchens at the Wood Buffalo Food Bank to produce hearty, home-cooked meals like pot roast, turkey dinners, Swedish meatballs and some of the best turkey pot pies I’ve ever tasted. While we settled in for what seemed like a trip down memory lane in Home Ec class, we produced 180 meals and learned from social workers just how important the job was that we were doing and how important it was to get the word out that senior citizens can buy and have these meals delivered for under $10.

St. Aidan’s Age Well at Home program is geared toward seniors who aren’t ready to give up their homes. I can’t imagine what the feeling must be like to have the mind and spirit of a 40-year-old, but being in an 80-year-old body and slowly forced to think about retirement home living. Through volunteers –  and many more are needed – they provide light-duty house cleaning, grocery pick up, taking seniors to appointments, shopping, snow shovelling and lawn care. We all know how expensive cab fare is. Now imagine that on a fixed income.  Sometimes, it’s just the visit that’s needed, a little time and a cup of tea.

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To hear stories that there are senior citizens in our region who have family who don’t visit ripped the heart out of me. We all know that as we get older, friends move and pass away, and mobility becomes an issue. It’s up to the rest of us to pick up the slack.

Here are some frightening figures that hopefully point you in the way of starting a bigger movement to help seniors. By 2030, the last of the baby boomers will reach senior status. By 2036, Alberta is expected to have over 1 million seniors in the province. Right now, St. Aidan’s has wait lists for seniors in need because they don’t have enough volunteers. While you may see this as a big commitment, it really isn’t. It could be a couple of hours a week, or it could be as simple as picking up an extra bag of groceries while you’re already at the store and dropping them off on your way home. The nice thing about St. Aidan’s is that you can just have your name on the list; if you can’t do a task, they will ask the next person.

One story I heard was of an 85-year-old man who was over the moon with glee when a bag of mandarin oranges arrived. He sat down and ate one after the other because it was an enjoyment he hadn’t had in a really long time. Now, I would never guilt or shame people into volunteering, but in my heart of hearts, we owe these people more than that. No one should be left behind. The littlest things create so much happiness.

One of the easiest ways to help seniors is to recognize if they live in your neighbourhood. Offer an ear, talk to them, and let them know they can call you if they ever need a jar or a bottle opened. Offer whatever help you can. As the old saying goes, “It takes a village.”

If you would like to volunteer with St. Aidan’s or learn more, you can visit their website, staidanssociety.ca, or you can call them at 780-743-4370.

About the author

Author Profile
Michael Jesso

A Fort McMurray staple, Michael Jesso is a renaissance man. He is an opinion-sharer, a car aficionado, a cooking show host, and a stand-up comedian.

He tells it like it is, and has his finger on the pulse of what is happening at all times. He is connected, in the know, incredibly invested in the community, and has the most contagious laugh. Not to mention the most epic party pad in all of Fort McMurray.

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