Demand for lawn care help for seniors never been higher, says community group
Peter Maltais doesn’t like to sit still.
He’d rather be working. Rather be using his hands. So, every week he works on seniors’ yards who need the extra help. It’s a job he does on the side, just for the joy of it, he says.
But he also has a sense of mission, propelled by his own father’s story. He helps out so other people can stay in their homes longer.
Peter Maltais takes care of Jennifer Sharpe’s yard work through the spring and summer. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)
“With the help of the family, brothers and grand kids, my dad was able to stay in his house. I want to return that to anybody I possibly can,” said Maltais.
Maltais has been matched with nine seniors in Kitchener through Community Support Connections, a group in Waterloo region that focuses on helping people stay in their homes with independence and dignity.
100 people on waiting list
Will Pace, executive director of Community Support Connections, says the demand for help tending to seniors’ yards has never been higher, which is why they’re looking for workers.
“We have a waiting list over more than 100 people,” he said.
Will Pace, executive director of Community Support Connections, says the demand for more yard work is growing because older people continue to move to Waterloo region from other communities. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)
“Our wait list is growing incrementally every year…We’re seeing people in our community age. We’re seeing people move to our community from other communities.”
The work has become even more essential during the pandemic, Pace says. The yard work is both a form of social connection and a practical necessity.
“It’s not on the top of everyone’s list, but when you think about it, if you’re going to be living in your own home, you have to maintain your yard and property,” he said.
‘I love her’
The need for both yard care and social connection has become more important than ever for Jennifer Sharpe over the last couple months.
Her daughter died in February. With physical distancing it’s been challenging to properly grieve and take care of affairs.
“It’s been difficult. We haven’t been able to get on with things like we’d like to,” Sharpe said.
But she does look forward to her visits with Maltais — a source of consistency. He’s been working on Sharpe’s yard for two years now. They’ve built a relationship through hours of pruning, watering, mowing and just talking to each other.
Jennifer Sharpe says she couldn’t stay in her house without the yard work help. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)
“We kibitz about…he’s a really easy going guy,” she said.
Maltais describes her as being like a grandmother, although then pauses considering his own age, and says “maybe more like a mother,” with a smile.
“I love her…I would do anything for her,” said Maltais.
During the pandemic, Maltais and Sharpe still chat from a far. As he mows the lawn she says if it wasn’t for him the grass would be up to her knees.
“I wouldn’t be able to stay in my home if it wasn’t for the fact that I have Peter,” said Sharpe.