Helping others get moving: Volunteers needed to assist Elmwood residents

Elmwood Lodge in Westboro

Special to KT, from Shelly Ann Morris

Physical fitness is important to us all.  It is especially important to those who have disabilities or those with barriers to accessing programs to better or maintain good health.  Volunteers can make the difference.

Westboro is an inclusive neighbourhood.  Elmwood Lodge sits on one of its shady, quiet streets.  The large house was once home to a doctor and his family.  Many years ago, it became a lodge for 26 women, each having some form of mental health challenge.

Shelly Ann Morris has been volunteering at Elmwood Lodge for 29 years. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

Elmwood Lodge is one of the City of Ottawa’s “domiciliary hostels.”  Round-the-clock staff ensures that the women have room, board, supervision of medication, and assistance with activities of daily living. Some of the women who live there work, take the bus, visit their friends, go to restaurants, and participate in social/recreational programs and go out into the community. Westboro and the surrounding area know the house and many of the residents and have welcomed those who do venture out.

Unfortunately not all of the ladies are able to come and go.  Age, disability, economic challenges, lack of transportation and/or social supports are just some of the things that limit their access. The staff has taken proactive steps to see that the women have a good quality of life. Recently they welcomed Gidget, a Pomeranian pooch, to their world with great benefit for 4- and 2-legged residents alike. Recreation programs also help, such as crafts, games and music.

What’s needed now is the opportunity to get moving.

How do I know so much about Elmwood Lodge and the people who live there? Twenty-nine years ago, I began volunteering with Citizen Advocacy, an organization that matches people with disabilities (protégés) to volunteer ‘advocates’ for friendship and support. Citizen Advocacy will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Ottawa in 2014. CA as always helped me through education and guidance, and given me the encouragement to help my advocate so that she can maintain her physical and mental well-being.

“Folks surviving solely on OAS or ODSP are in no position financially to pay for exercise programs. Transportation and the ability to get oneself there also play a factor for those who could take part in community-based programs offered at a reduced rate. For older, infirm or very mentally ill folks, volunteers who can visit them in home are crucial. Simple chair exercises, lively music, simple yoga, walks in the neighbourhood and interaction with someone to brighten up the day or week are beneficial for everyone involved. Giving back to those in need creates a deep rewarding feeling of satisfaction, something money cannot buy. Helping those in need with motivation to exercise and to feel empowered is also a priceless gift. IT’S WIN WIN!” – Kristin Vaudrey, Elmwood Lodge’s Executive Director

I was matched to my protégé, a wonderful woman originally from Eastern Europe, who lives at Elmwood Lodge. During our 29 years of friendship, many good things have come her way, including four grandchildren. However, aging and her disability have taken a toll on her physical health. Lack of exercise has limited her ability to walk and get around. The same holds true for some of the other women. All are in agreement that a regular exercise program would improve their physical and mental well-being.

Those at Elmwood are hoping that volunteers could be found to lead the women in a regular, in-house, group exercise program. It is also hoped that volunteers could escort others on short walks around the neighbourhood, which is one of Ottawa’s most ideal places to walk. The ability to become physically active is increasingly important during the long, cold winter months.

The journey to better health begins with one small step. Without the assistance of volunteers, those most in need may not be able to take that small but important first step.

If you think that you might like to volunteer to help someone in your neighbourhood to become more active, please call Kristin Vaudrey at 613-729-2398.






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