A support group for Chinese seniors is helping them integrate into Canadian life and meet new friends – something many found daunting before joining the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre.
Family was the overwhelming reason many of the seniors immigrated to Canada. Once here though, they said they were lonely and found it hard to meet people when they didn't speak or understand English.
“The life here is very lonely,” said Ming Hua Ai, through a translator. She moved to the country in 2009 with her husband Zhi Guo Li to be near their only daughter.
Ai said there were no people who spoke her language where she lived and having little English comprehension, it kept her from venturing out. Then her daughter came across the website for the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre.
“She wanted us to have more activities,” said Ai. “Meet people and make friends.”
The support centre is where she met Wen Jean Ho, founder of the group.
“She’s very kind and very helpful; very strong, very special and very concerned for senior people,” said Ai about Ho.
Ho was laid off from her full-time job last year, and instead of giving up, she threw herself into running the support centre, said Ai.
“We learn how to be strong and how to face problems and how to handle difficulties from her,” said Ai. “She cares so much about seniors...She respects everyone and give us the dignity to be a senior.”
Ho launched the Chinese seniors support centre this past March. The Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre is a non-profit organization that aims to establish, develop and maintain a support hub for Chinese seniors in Kanata and the surrounding areas.
“I see the need,” said Ho about launching the centre. “People need a bridge, a vehicle to help them connect with the community.”
The support centre provides opportunities for its members to socialize, volunteer in the community and be active. Weekly activities include fitness classes, crafting, English lessons, seminars, health and wellness sessions, day trips, volunteering in the community and supporting other events.
Hua Qing Yang moved to the country one year ago to be with his daughter’s family. A former surgeon and professor at a medical university in China, Yang said he found it difficult to adjust to life in Canada.
“When I was in China I was so busy with my work. But here I hardly have anything to do,” he said. “I feel like I'm useless after so many years in surgery.
“Through the centre, I began to feel like a person again. I can use my skills to help people.”
He has held workshops on health and wellness for members of the group.
“Through the seniors centre I was able to share my medical knowledge with the centre,” said Yang.
Fu Lian Zhe moved to Canada with his wife Aidli Zhang 25 years ago to give their children a better life.
“I came to Canada for our children (to) go to university,” said Zhe. The former engineer picked up a job working at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, where he had the opportunity to serve Queen Elizabeth II.
Being a part of the support centre keeps his body strong, he said, because the group organizes different activities, like dancing and ping pong.
“Everyone here has a story,” said Ho.
Currently, the support centre has around 80 members, but they are looking to add more. As well, the centre is looking for volunteers to help run the programs, such as English classes, event planning and more.
Adele Muldoon has volunteered since the summer, and even though she only speaks English, she said it’s wonderful being able to help.
“It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding,” she said.
The group meets at various locations in Kanata and Stittsville on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information on the Kanata Chinese Seniors Support Centre, visit KCSSC.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-656-2324.