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​West Neighbourhood House – Universidade de Vida

Social isolation is a complex issue, the interplay of different personal, social and environmental factors. Seniors are an especially vulnerable group, especially new immigrants who struggle with language and who face barriers accessing information that can be used to inform their choices in everyday life. (Research shows that the proportion of newcomers living in poverty in Toronto has grown steadily over the last several decades.) 

West Neighbourhood House, a multi-service neighbourhood centre and a United Way social services agency, launched a unique program, Universidade de Vida (Life University), in autumn 2019 for at-risk Portuguese-speaking older adults and seniors. 

Its aim was two-fold: reduce their social isolation and create a safe and exciting learning environment through this ‘university’ to empower them. That is, give them the knowledge and skills to confidently plan ahead and make responsible financial and life decisions appropriate to their individual circumstances.

Made possible through a generous grant from Fundo de Apoio IC Savings, our credit union’s community support fund, the four-week courses on retirement and financial planning and advanced care planning were offered, at no cost to students, in Portuguese and were led by local professionals, including AnaBela Taborda, branch manager of our Little Portugal location. Each workshop involved reflection and homework exercises and culminated in a student showcase and heartwarming graduation ceremony in late November. There is value in learning in any age!

Universidade da Vida (Life University) operates out of the Older Adult Centre located at the agency’s Dundas and Ossington Avenue location. Learn more about this organization and its good work at http://www.westnh.org/.