Windsor Star
October 15, 2021

Through the pandemic, many seniors struggled with isolation and loneliness.

A program launched especially to help LGBTQ seniors connect with their peers has been a huge success — and officials are now extending the program past its initial one-year pilot.

QConnect Plus is a drop-in program for LGBTQ people age 50 and older in Windsor and Essex County. It first launched in September 2020 thanks to a $70,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

After a successful first year, officials with the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest announced Friday the program is here to stay, thanking the Trillium Foundation for the grant that got it started.  

“With the great success of the program to date, the QConnect Plus program will continue both virtual and in-person moving forward as part of the Windsor-Essex Pride Fest mission,” said Wendi Nicholson, president of Pride Fest.  

Originally pitched pre-pandemic, the program went virtual over the last year.

The program specifically targeted at people 50 and older helped people connect with their peers and find common interests.

Nicholson said the social connections the program fostered were key to helping many people get through the pandemic.

“Over the last 12 months the QConnect Plus program has delivered weekly virtual opportunities for LGBTQ2S+ seniors across Windsor and Essex and the region to connect safely for conversations, activities and fellowship that saw them through the difficult COVID lockdown,” Nicholson said.

On any given week, the drop-in style program had between five and 25 participants for discussion, fellowship and socializing. Virtual game nights held twice a month proved particularly popular, bringing out 60 and 70 people.

“It’s been very successful, especially during COVID,” said David Lenz, community development for Windsor-Essex Pride Fest. “There was nothing for them to do, no one for them to talk to, and a lot of seniors didn’t have anyone else around them that was supportive.”

Going forward, the program will include both in-person and virtual components, and will have more workshops, activities and volunteer service now that groups can come together in person.

“Thank you Pride Fest for always having events that keep us in the know, keep us socializing and keep us part of the community as we age,” said Mel Lucier, a former Pride Fest board member.

By Kathleen Saylors