Healthy Aging for Ethno-cultural Seniors

Minding our Health: Culturally Responsive Brain Health and Dementia (2019 – present)

Minding Our Health is an initiative to improve quality of life for ethno-cultural seniors with dementia and their caregivers.  The goals and objectives are: 

Improve the living conditions of seniors with dementia and their caregivers


  • Reduce isolation through social connections and culturally responsive programs
  • Pilot and scale culturally appropriate dementia supports
  • Improve access to existing services (cultural competence for mainstream services and knowledge/access for ethno-cultural seniors) 

Increase the capacity of people and organizations addressing seniors’ exclusion


  • Increase the capacity of grassroots ethno-cultural groups
  • Support service providers and decision makers promoting inclusion on the one hand and innovative change in seniors supports on the other (esp. dementia friendly communities, social and relational models of care, partnerships)

Build inclusive environments and advance systemic change (policies, programs, infrastructure) in support of healthy aging


  • Support increased cultural competence within mainstream services
  • Support inclusive planning affecting ethno-cultural seniors and others with distinct needs
  • Promote non-medical models of healthy aging especially the relational model of dementia care (strengthening natural supports)
  • Promote the critical role of grassroots groups offering peer-to-peer supports as an essential component of a healthy aging approach and reduce the barriers that impede the ability of grassroots groups to provide peer-to-peer supports for seniors

In 2019, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa (SPCO), the Indo-Canadian Community Centre (ICCC), the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre and the Champlain Community Support Network (CCSN) have piloted culturally responsive community-based adult dementia support programs.  The program uses an innovative asset-based community development model to pilot viable evidence-based programs  that support healthy aging in place tailored to the distinct needs of ethno-cultural communities.  The project began in 2019 with the Indo-Canadian Community Centre and Kanata Chinese Seniors Support service each running weekly adult day programs.  In 2020, two additional communities actively joined the project in delivering their own unique model of support to their community members with dementia – Daryeel A Seniors and Youth Serving Centre and the Ottawa Valley Filipino Canadian Senior Citizens Association.  The project is continuing with a variety of activities that engage ethnocultural seniors with dementia and their caregivers and with a knowledge mobilization initiative to support cross-sector improvement.  We are grateful for the generous support of the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), Innoweave (McConnell Foundation) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.  

This practical volunteer training and support guide was created to help ethno-cultural seniors’ groups develop and conduct formal culturally appropriate volunteer training and support. The training guide will enhance the volunteer work currently done by the different communities and will meet the need for more formalized training and support that has a cultural component. The guide is intended to help increase the capacity and sustainability of existing ethno-cultural groups in Ottawa who provide volunteer services. It is also meant to act as a resource to mentor young people from different cultural backgrounds who want to volunteer in their own community, to help them learn and practice their language skills, and to increase knowledge of their own cultures of origin.  See Resources Section

Funding provided by the Government of Canada, New Horizon for Seniors Program.

The Guide is also available in:

Mental Health Promotion for Ethno-cultural Seniors:   Chinese Immigrant Seniors (2014)

Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre uses an inter-generational approach to support a new role of seniors within the extended family that will assist their independent healthy living.  The extended family plays a significant role in Chinese families, in their interaction with their own community and the mainstream culture. Family, community support and social networks are essential elements in the promotion of mental health.  KCSSC held a community consultation with Chinese seniors to identify the most effective ways to promote good mental health and mitigate the stressors of their integration process, preventing them from living a meaningful life in Canada.  The consultation objectives were:

  • To identify the main issues affecting Chinese seniors’ mental well-being
  • To detect major barriers preventing them from participating in community activities
  • To determine what type of community activities could be successful in improving their mental wellness
  • To find out how their volunteer participation can break down their isolation

Funding provided by the Government of Canada, New Horizon for Seniors Program

Social Activities for Ethno-cultural Seniors
(2010 – present)

The SPCO works in collaboration with a growing number of volunteer grassroots ethno-cultural minority groups to improve outcomes for ethno-cultural seniors (see Community Partners).  Ethno-cultural seniors are disproportionately at risk of isolation and face multiple barriers in accessing appropriate services.  Grassroots groups are critical to supporting healthy aging, providing the essential foundation of support which is complemented by the professional health and community services.  Currently we are working with 26 groups who engage thousands of seniors living in the Ottawa area.  These groups rely primarily on volunteers, and despite growing demands, have very limited budgets.  Through an equitable partnership and capacity building supports, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa and the grassroots ethno-cultural groups collaborate to support healthy aging in community for ethno-cultural minority seniors.  

Creating Community for Isolated Ethno-Cultural Seniors one of our collaborative projects, with the goal to reduce social isolation for immigrant and ethno-cultural minority seniors.  With three year funding from Employment and Social Development Canada, New Horizons for Seniors, and the hard work and dedication of the leaders and volunteers of the grassroots group, the project was tremendously successful in reducing seniors social isolation and supporting improved health and increased volunteering.   


  • Over 4,000 unique seniors participated in social activities, information sessions and events in over 50 types of social activities customized to diverse interests and needs (with a total of over 66,000 total encounters).
  • 2,300 interactions with seniors per year through home visits and telephone reassurance
  • Over 1,500 volunteers participated, the majority of whom were seniors
  • 400 community members received culturally responsive home visiting training resources
  • Reduced isolation, increased social connections, seniors feeling more valued
  • The project leveraged more than $1 in cash and in-kind contributions for every dollar of NHSP funding, with a significant portion coming from the grassroots groups
  • The project sparked an innovative spin-off to develop and deliver programming for ethno-cultural seniors with dementia and their caregivers (see Minding our Health)

We are grateful for funding from the Government of Canada (New Horizons for Seniors Program), which ended in 2019.  Many of the participating ethno-cultural groups will continue their social activities and their partnership with the Social Planning Council of Ottawa. 

Elder Abuse: Collectively We Care – Collectively We Help

Ottawa seniors come from many communities that speak over 93 different languages and have diverse cultural backgrounds. In many of the languages of these seniors, there is no word for ‘Elder Abuse’ and as such they do not talk about it openly in their communities.
Ethno-cultural seniors are more likely to experience ‘Elder Abuse’ because of fewer social connections, not knowing English or French. They depend on their families for care, and may not want to share personal information with anyone outside the family.

What is Elder Abuse? The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

More information is available in the following languages:

This Resource Guide was developed as part of the “Collectively We Care – Collectively We Help” Forum held on October 16, 2019. The Forum was hosted to educate ethno-cultural seniors in Ottawa about what constitutes elder abuse. More importantly, it was geared to service providers to enhance their understanding of the needs of ethno-cultural seniors in order to develop services and resources to meet the growing needs of this population. As a community we appreciated the importance of service providers and seniors coming together to address the often hidden issue related to elder abuse and to develop ethno-cultural sensitive solutions.

The Resource guide provides information to both deliver talks and to facilitate discussions in the community as a tool for raising awareness about ageism and elder abuse. It includes notes on facilitating open discussion with groups based on culturally appropriate narratives and videos. The Resource Guide has been designed to support bilingual community volunteers to deliver community education