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For Holocaust survivor Sylvia Steinberg, living independently means being able to count on the support she needs

Once a month, Sylvia Steinberg looks forward to attending the Let's Get Together social program at Circle of Care. For Sylvia, who has lived on her own since her husband passed away 21 years ago, the opportunity to meet up with other older adults for an afternoon of lunch and conversation is one of the highlights of her month. Designed to combat isolation among the elderly, Circle of Care’s Let’s Get Together offers participants the chance to mingle, learn and enjoy a nutritious meal in a friendly social setting with a Jewish cultural focus.

“If you live by yourself, it can be hard sometimes,” says Sylvia.

At 84, Sylvia is still remarkably independent, living in her own apartment a few minutes’ drive from her daughter Rosalie’s home. While she spends her weekends with Rosalie’s family, the days Sylvia is on her own can be challenging. Circle of Care, part of Sinai Health, helps fill the gaps, providing a range of home and community support services that enable older adults like Sylvia to continue living comfortably and independently at home.

“The people at Circle of Care are so kind,” says Sylvia. “They always want to know how I’m doing. That’s nice.”

Sylvia is one of more than 1,600 Holocaust survivor clients who receive services and support from Circle of Care. As Canada’s largest grant recipient of funds from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Circle of Care’s staff and volunteers are trained to support the unique needs of Holocaust survivors with special understanding, knowledge and sensitivity.

“Many of our clients struggle with multiple chronic diseases, dementia, poverty, social isolation and residual trauma,” says Carey Lucki, Chief Executive Officer of Circle of Care. “Our program provides person-centred, trauma-informed case management, care planning with health partners and enhanced social work, as well as personal support and services that are sensitive to their unique experiences.”

Like many survivors, Sylvia has endured great loss with incredible resilience and gratitude. Born in Romania, she was just three years old when the war began. After losing her parents, she was sent to live with her grandparents, before her Jewish grandfather whisked her away to a Catholic boarding school to keep her safe until the war ended. She met her husband after the war, and the young couple left Romania for the United States in search of a better life. They settled in Baltimore to raise their family, and Sylvia began a 40-year career she loved as a medical illustrator. In 2004, five years after her husband passed away, Sylvia moved to Canada to help her daughter, who was training in psychiatry, and her son-in-law raise their three daughters.

“Eight years of schooling,” Sylvia beams. “My daughter says she could not have done it without me.”

Even with her family close by, for Sylvia, Circle of Care is a lifeline. She counts on Circle of Care for a number of services, including house cleaning, weekly Kosher Meals on Wheels deliveries and Circle of Care’s iRide transportation service to help her get to and from appointments safely.

But what she values above all are the human connections. She looks forward to the personal check-ins from Circle of Care, whether during a Meals on Wheels drop-off or the weekly phones calls from specially trained and matched volunteers. These connections make a world of difference in Sylvia’s day.

“I think I am in good hands,” says Sylvia. “I am thankful for Circle of Care and everything they do for me.”

Sylvia Steinberg is grateful to Circle of Care for helping her live independently and stay connected. Pictured: Sylvia with the adoring Toby.