Bringing Seniors and New Immigrants Together
in a Canadian Christmas Celebration

By Nathalie Richard

Seniors were entertained by a Brass Quintet at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre last December 6, 1999. New immigrants to Canada also took part in this Christmas concert by way of videoconference linking the Catholic Immigration Centre with the seniors' residence. Immigrants from Sudan, Congo and South Africa were given a taste of a Canadian Christmas celebration.

Approximately 20 seniors from the Perley & Rideau Veterans' Health Centre and 6-7 immigrants from the Catholic Immigration Centre watched the Quintet's hour long performance. Participants also got a chance to learn about the musical instruments being used, as each musician presented his instrument and explained how it works. During the evening, coordinators invited participants to sing along. Both Centres took turns singing for each other. Not all songs were known by the immigrants. One of the Africans noted that as they do not have snow in their countries, they were not familiar with songs like "Winter Wonderland" which refer to winter. Organizers received positive feedback from the participants who said they had a great time. Some of the immigrants even asked if they could have access to musical instruments to organize another concert.

This was just one of many intergenerational activities organized by the PACE 2000 International Foundation ( PACE is an acronym for "Program for the Autonomy and Communication for the Elderly"). PACE 2000 organizes intergenerational activities which often take place through videoconferencing. Immigrants are invited to meet Canadian seniors on a weekly basis to learn more about Canadian culture and mentality. This also benefits seniors and gives them a sense of purpose in helping new immigrants adjust to life in Canada. Other activities are organized, such as a weekly Wheel of Fortune game between the two Centres. Liane Meunier, Intergenerational Coordinator with PACE 2000 says she hopes to organize more activities for special occasions, such as Valentine?s Day and Easter.

PACE 2000 has also created videoconferencing links between seniors and primary and high school students. In addition, seniors from the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre get to share with their peers during sessions held with other senior homes throughout Ottawa. PACE 2000 is the first project of its kind in the world – through which it is hoped that people of different generations will be brought together to connect with each other and bring meaning to each other's lives.

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