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First website for Fil-Canadian elderly launched in Toronto

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Fritz Pino gives the background of the film “Cyber Seniors.” INQUIRER/Marisa Roque

TORONTO, Ontario — The first-ever website dedicated to Filipino Canadian seniors, their caregivers and their families was launched on Sunday, March 19, at the Palmerston Public Library in midtown Toronto.

FilipinoSeniors.ca, created to allow Filipino Canadian seniors better access to information and social supports, was introduced to the community in an event hosted by the Filipino Elderly Wellbeing (FEW) Project.  FEW was established in 2011 by a group of researchers, social workers and community leaders in the Toronto Filipino community. The website project was funded by the Province of Ontario.

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Fritz Pino moderates the panel made up of Frank Villanueva, Alice Javier Siervo, and Mary Ann San Juan. INQUIRER/Marisa Roque

The website’s launch gave the audience of seniors a preview of what might be in store for them once they become computer savvy, via a screening of the movie “Cyber Seniors.”

The film shows seniors in a nursing home in Toronto being paired with tech-proficient high school students, and the story follows each pair as the seniors learn to navigate the worldwide web.  YouTube, Facebook and Skype open the seniors to the possibilities of communicating with family members in different locations, some on the other side of the globe.  Their feelings of loneliness and social isolation are relieved as each passing day makes them more computer-adept.

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After the screening, a panel facilitated by Fritz Pino and made up of Frank Villanueva (FEW Project), Alicia Javier Siervo (Seniors in Action), and Mary Ann San Juan (Toronto Seniors Forum, Filipino Center Toronto) shared their experiences in dealing with the issues facing Filipino seniors in Toronto.

The website FilipinoSeniors.ca was then introduced to the audience, and the different tabs opened and explained, showing how seniors could easily access all the information they need at any given time with regard to housing, recreation and health and medical services, among other topics.

How did the website come to be?

Between 2012-13, FEW gathered 250 Filipino seniors from various organizations to complete a research study that documented their living conditions and needs as racialized aging adults.

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Frank Villanueva, Fritz Pino and Monica Batac launch website dedicated to Pinoy seniors in Canada. INQUIRER/Marisa Roque

Frank Villanueva, Fritz Pino and Monica Batac are the community organizers and implementers of the FEW Project. They cite Statistics Canada figures that “Filipinos are one of the fastest growing aging populations in the country.  Over forty percent of them live in the Greater Toronto Area.

“The FEW study found that seventy percent of Filipino seniors live below the poverty line,” says Villanueva.

“They experience difficulty when trying to access and navigate community resources,” adds Pino.

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“Language barriers, a lack of culturally relevant materials, and lack of training and support in using the computer are also issues,” states Batac.

“The biggest issues among the seniors would be the fear of technology, and the fear of learning something new,” says Villanueva.

“Getting the seniors to try out technology via the website is an exciting start for addressing those fears head on,” says Pino.

After the panel discussion, the audience enjoyed chatting about the possibilities opened to them by the website while snacking on popcorn and native merienda — lechon, dinuguan, pancit, puto and ensaimada — from Bernard’s Pilipino Specialties, Manila Bakery, and the Toronto Popcorn Company.

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TAGS: Bernard's Pilipino Specialties, Filipino Center Toronto, Filipino Elderly Wellbeing (FEW) Project, Manila Bakery, Seniors in Action, Statistics Canada, Toronto Popcorn Company, Toronto Seniors Forum, website for Filipino Canadian seniors, website for senior citizens
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