Seniors Intercultural Music Program

The Cause

Sage works from and with the strengths and needs of seniors to support active and healthy aging in community. A holistic suite of social services, including life enrichment programming, social work supports, outreach and system navigation, information and resources related to housing, and specialized services like help with hoarding behaviour and refuge from elder abuse, means that for seniors, every door is the right door with Sage. The Seniors Intercultural Music program emerged from an English as another language (EAL) program to help seniors improve English through song, and offers seniors from diverse backgrounds and life experiences the opportunity to come together in an inclusive environment, share in music, and develop a joyful community of support.

The unfunded program’s weekly offerings include: SING!, an opportunity for practicing English through song and teaching each other cultural songs; Sing-a-longs; and an afternoon group ukulele class.
This intercultural life enrichment program is available without the barrier of a fee for seniors who cherish the inclusion and connections that result from sharing music together. The program increases participants’ sense of belonging, strengthens bonds with other seniors, and connects them to community resources and programs as needed.

“The class is the highlight of my week,” program participant

When COVID -19 forced us to shut down our in-person gatherings, the music program went online. Longing for connection and the joy of sharing music, participants encouraged each other to participate in this new form and they pioneered online or by phone with music sheets delivered in advance. Transitioning out of the pandemic will be slow for this high-risk population, but the intercultural gathering through music, whether in person or virtually, can provide a nurturing respite of connection, support, and joy.
The original funding for this successful program has come to an end, and the program had been supported month-by-month using surplus funds from other projects. This is no longer possible and the program is now in jeopardy, at a time when it is especially clear that systems of social support for seniors is essential.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Intercultural Music Program engages seniors for whom English is not a first language, as well as seniors engaged with other Sage programming.
The majority of seniors who come to Sage are low-resourced - those experiencing marginalization or who are hard to reach, such as those lacking access to family and social supports; living with a physical or mental disability; newcomers or English language learners; providing caregiving; living with a low income or are financially challenged with limited disposable income, and have limited access to financial resources.
Many seniors experience barriers to accessing programs and services, and these issues are more pronounced for those with low resources. As such, whenever possible, programs are provided at no cost.