Building communities across generations

In 1972, interns at McGill and Vanier College conducted a study on seniors’ quality of life in downtown Montreal, especially around McGill campus. The study was spearheaded by Yellow Door, an iconic Milton-Parc community centre with deep ties to the University. It revealed that many seniors struggled to meet their basic needs: running errands, getting groceries and receiving medical services often proved difficult or impossible. The inability to get outside often led to a premature move into a seniors’ residence.

This realization inspired volunteers at the Yellow Door to launch the Elderly Project. The volunteer-run outreach service helped seniors manage their day-to-day errands. Now called YD Generations, the 40-year-old program has expanded to include more social activities to help keep seniors involved and active in the community. Activities range from workshops and yoga classes to art projects and museum trips. Access Internet, the newest program of YD Generations, sends volunteers to seniors’ homes to teach them how to use the Web.

Pietro Bozzo, Yellow Door’s Director, stresses that the program’s 100-plus roster of volunteers – almost all of whom are McGill students – aren’t just helping seniors. “YD Generations has become a portal through which students can get directly involved and become more community-minded, through hands-on experience with real human issues. These are invaluable lessons that volunteers take with them as they move into their careers.”

When Yellow Door opened in 1904, its goal was to give students a break from academics and to expose them to off-campus community issues. “It started as a space that involved students in community service through social, spiritual and artistic endeavours,” says Bozzo, “and nothing has changed in that respect over the years. It’s a place that promotes dialogue, connectedness and intergenerational communication.”

Over the years, the Yellow Door has remained steadfast in its commitment to community engagement. “This is a place where people can get involved in their neighbourhoods,” Bozzo says. “We’re an easy fit for most volunteers—we have fun-filled activities that serve up some real take-away lessons as well.”