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January 03, 2019 They say tikkun olam starts at home. Toronto’s Jewish Community demonstrated that when volunteers founded the Jewish Old Folks Home, the precursor to Baycrest, in 1918. Through their efforts money was raised, skills were shared, helping hands were put to work and our elders were looked after.

More than 100 years later, we continue to be guided by these same ethical and moral imperatives, to ensure the wellbeing of older adults both in the Jewish community and beyond. Through our work here, and in collaboration, with our healthcare sector colleagues, we are studying how to add life to years; discovering treatments that help delay the onset of dementia and other age-related diseases; educating locally, nationally and internationally about evidence-based approaches (all discovered by leading brain health scientists at our world-renowned Rotman Research Institute) to staying “brain healthy” through lifestyle choices that include healthy eating, socializing and exercising.

All those advancements were part of the first 100 years of our history. As we begin our next century - fittingly with Alzheimer Awareness Month 2019 - as we continue to grow and expand, now more than ever, we need the next generation of community volunteers to help us across the coming years of growth. I can tell you from first-hand experience; it is truly something special to become part of a family of volunteers. I was a Baycrest volunteer, as was my grandfather. In our own special ways we found our niche here and enriched our own lives as well as those of others. But whether you choose to volunteer at Baycrest or at another organization, the rewards are incalculable.

I have helped thousands of community members of all ages find a place where they could make a difference. More than that, I have witnessed how volunteering often led them to find their careers or paths in life. Volunteering doesn’t just help our residents and patients, it helps the volunteer. In fact, Baycrest researchers even discovered that volunteering is good for our brain health. 

This Alzheimer Awareness Month, I urge you to become part of a program that provides our older adult residents and patients with increased opportunities for choice and creativity; allows them to discover and develop new passions; and facilitates their engagement in leisure activities of their choosing. As a volunteer, you will be part of something bigger than yourself and will get back more than you ever expected in the process. I encourage you to join our dynamic team of volunteers. You can make a difference in the lives of so many by sharing your own special talents and passions. Make an impact by registering to volunteer at Baycrest and be part of the future of enriching lives.

Janis Sternhill is Director of Volunteer Services at Baycrest Health Sciences.
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