The largest Slovak wave
of immigration came to Canada in the late 20s and
the 30s. Most were young people ranging in age
from 18 to 25, looking to make some money for the
family left behind in Slovakia.
They were the ones who developed this Canada
through clearing forests, working the mines,
tilling the land and looking after the cattle.
Today, if they are still alive, they are in their
80s and 90s. Those who came after the Second
World War were older and more established, and
now are in their late 60s and 70s.
Canada has been kind to them. They have been
able to live the kind of lives they wanted, had
the health care they needed, so that many were
able to enjoy their elderly lives by seeing their
grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
In those early days, there was an ethic that
the children look after their parents, and it was
considered a shame if a parent were to be placed
in an old folks home where the older people felt
they had been abandoned and left to die.
Today, senior citizen homes in many cases are
pleasant buildings in which to live, like the
Loyola Arrupe complex at Bloor and Parkside in
Toronto which has Slovak involvement through Sts.
Cyril and Methodius Church. Not only is the
building attractive, there are seniors programs
available which help the elderly spend their time
and still enjoy the grandchildren when they
Our Slovak priests, Lutheran and Catholic,
have had a difficult time ministering unto our
elderly who are spread across Metropolitan
Toronto, and they would like nothing better than
to have a couple of homes centrally located in
which Slovaks would be the principal residents.
The Canadian Slovak League began a program of
seniors homes in Cambridge and Brantford, but the
directors of those homes chose to sever their
connection with the Canadian Slovak League, and
now those homes are no longer connected to the
Slovak Canadian community.
Each year, more of our elderly reach the age
when they need both a convenient place to live
and for nursing and medical care to be available.
As the elderly get older, when diseases such as
Alzheimers strike, the children are often in no
position to provide the intensive nursing care
that their parents need. To put them in private
homes often is too expensive.
It is difficult for a father or a mother to
accept that he or she can no longer live with the
children, or live alone in a large house, that
one can be a danger to oneself.
In the years ahead our community must build
more seniors homes with the assistance of
government. There is much space about the
Cathedral of the Transfiguration, and we should
consider looking there to see whether we can
house our elderly in a place close to the
cathedral and have medical and nursing care
No person should feel embarrassed because they
are going to a seniors' home. It is no longer a
shame. One must understand that one needs to live
in a place that has the care one needs as one
gets older and which the children can't provide
Nothing sickens a child more than to see a
parent an Alzheimer's patient becoming like a
baby, forgetting even how to eat or dress or to
do normal bodily functions. There is a limit to
how much care the children can provide in a
situation like that.
This means our community must not only have to
ensure that our elderly are properly looked
after, but programs must be developed and be made
available to them to interest them in their final
days. This is an enormous problem, and those with
some knowledge of social needs should start
helping the community plan.