St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

The Older Adult Centre on 761 Queen St. West

In the 1960s, St. Christopher House offered two half-day programs per week for older adults, plus occasional special activities. Two decades later, close to five hundred members, most of whom over seventy years of age, were involved in activities offered five days a week at the Older Adult Centre.  Several factors contributed to this expansion: in 1971 the program was granted Elderly Person Centre status by the government of Ontario, which increased funding; the hiring of bilingual outreach workers to contact seniors in the neighbourhood; and the move to Queen Street United Church in 1973, which provided sufficient space to expand the program to a five-day a week drop-in centre - in the 1960s, this Church had been the home of the small Portuguese Protestant congregation of Toronto, directed by the missionary Rev. George Vernon Kimball.

In 1975 the range of activities expanded to include painting, crafts, bowling, cinema and a Diner’s Club. English, Orientation and Citizenship classes were added in 1978 to help older Portuguese immigrants adjust to city life. Interpreting, information and referral services; health education; counseling; a fitness program; shopping trips; the foot care clinic and a free income tax service had also become important components of the program. Regular visits from the children of the Nursery School also kept everyone feeling young. Throughout the 1970s, there was increased emphasis on member participation, responsibility, and control of the program, beginning with the establishment in 1973 of a Member Executive, which met monthly.

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