City of Kingston

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MESSAGE FOR SENIORS: Are you feeling lonely or socially-isolated these days? – The Frontenac Kingston Council on Aging has developed a new program called Sunshine Calls.

A volunteer will telephone you each morning to have a casual conversation. Over time you will be introduced to a few more seniors and a small network of telephone friends. You may even decide to meet each other.

It’s free. Interested?

Call: 613 542-1336

Or Email:  

What is a Compassionate Community?

A community that recognizes that all natural cycles of sickness and health, birth and death, and love and loss, occur every day within the orbits of its institutions and regular activities.

Its residents recognize that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.

As Professor Allan Kellehear (originally from Australia and now at the University of Bradford, England) has stated, dying is not fundamentally a medical event, rather it is a social event that happens in the family and community. If dying is about living, loving and working with a life-threatening illness until one can no longer do so … the longer part of that lifestyle occurs outside formal health care institutions.

Compassionate Community

Our VisionOur Vision

In our community, we know that we all have a role to play in supporting each other in times of crisis and loss.  People are willing and confident to have conversations about living well and dying well; to ask comfortably for help; to offer help willingly and to support each other in emotional and practical ways.

Our FocusOur Focus

Research has shown that community development initiatives intent about fostering social change are most successful if they focus on changing two social norms:

  • Shift our culture from one in which members instinctively decline help from personal and community networks to one that ‘asks for and accepts help’.
  • Reinforce and create a community culture that is confident and capable of offering and providing help.

Our PlanOur Plan

  • Establish new norms of attitude and culture so we can talk easily about living well, dying well and grieving well.
  • Promote interest and understanding of the issues involved in an effective social approach to end-of-life supports.
  • Engage, strengthen, connect and navigate informal community networks.

Our ApproachOur Approach

In partnership with other community groups and organizations:

  • conduct Community Conversations and sharing of experiences on the most effective ways to promote the role of community in end-of-life planning and care.
  • Encourage volunteers to lead a variety of initiatives in which they are interested.
  • Conduct education programs on relevant topics.
  • Develop an asset-mapping project to determine the range and extent of existing social networks.


A compassionate community – the sort we’d all like to live in – is one where sickness and health, birth and death, love and loss are regarded as natural events. And where in times of crisis and bereavement, community members, and not just health professionals, watch over one another caringly.

The compassionate care (CC) movement had its nascence in Ottawa Canada in November 1986 when the first International Conference on Health Promotion responded to a growing need for a new worldwide public health approach with the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Since then the World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted a public health model to include palliative care, garnering support on an international scale. This in turn has helped to drive the widespread Compassionate Communities movement today.

Based on Professor Kellehear’s vision and research, the movement has become a social model of palliative care rooted in the community. Its whole systems approach, based on a Compassionate City Charter (CCC), extends services to community settings – such as workplaces, schools, faith communities – while at the same time demystifying caregiving, dying, death, and grieving, through social and cultural settings such as museums, art galleries, media, and thus effecting social change.

Our Steering Committee

Florence Campbell
Eleanor Rivoire
Peter Merkley
Allen G. Prowse
Rob Wood


This international movement began almost twenty years ago.  We are grateful for the opportunity to learn from the years of experience in other communities.  We acknowledge especially Dr. Allan Kellehear; The Groundswell Project; Australia; the Scottish Compassionate Communities Network (Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief); Compassionate Communities U.K. Frome Model; The Healthy End-of-Life Project, LaTrobe University, Australia.

In Canada, Compassionate Ottawa and Pallium Canada have been especially helpful and continue to provide valuable expertise and advice.

Our Approach And Key Themes

Our Approach

Compassionate Communities | What is Possible

We want to help us all live as well as we can for as long as we can.  To do that, and to ensure that the above possibility becomes a reality, our focus is on changing two social norms.

SOCIAL NORM ONE.  We’re a death-denying society

We won’t discuss “it”.  Yet, talking about dying never killed anyone.  We spend more time planning our next vacation than thinking about our wishes, beliefs, values … perhaps with a serious illness looming.

We instinctively decline help from personal and community networks when offered and say “thank you for asking but I’m fine”, even when we’re not fine.

SOCIAL NORM TWO.  Citizens are willing but lack confidence in knowing how to help

If we decline help, willing citizens are often put in a position of not knowing how to help so they retreat by saying “let me know if I there is anything I can do”.

This Compassionate City model guides our activities.

Compassionate City Model

Key Themes

Compassionate Communities | Community Engagement

1. Bringing people together; reducing social isolation and loneliness

Social isolation – the number and frequency of links in a person’s social network — is objective, while loneliness – an individual reaction to the quality of these connections — is subjective.   It is possible to be socially isolated without being lonely, just as it is possible for two people to have completely different perceptions of the same social network.

How can we help minimize loneliness? By getting to know our neighbours; telephoning someone; video chatting; joining a club or group; or volunteering in our community.

Current Approach

The Council on Aging, under John Mirski’s leadership, is developing an approach to place calls each morning to isolated seniors

2. Exploring a variety of models to promote connection

Recognized prototypes such as “Happy to Chat” park benches might be adapted; more OASIS buildings established; faith community programs convened; coffee groups started; library projects organized (e.g. caregiver kits for dementia, book groups); public service announcements (PSAs) broadcast;  planning/policy work with the city arranged, for example.

Current approach

Kimberley Sutherland-Mills, KFL&A Library is working with the Alzheimer’s Society to prepare kits available from the library for caregivers that will include innovative ideas for entertaining and supporting those for whom they are caring.

3. Promoting conversations and education about the “elephant in the room”

Current approach

In collaboration with Hospice Kingston and Southern Frontenac Community Services, CCKC provides free seminars to citizens to help them prepare their advance care plans.


We are a death-denying society. Talking about dying is something we do not like to do. But the present coronavirus pandemic has made people think. Suddenly, conversations that have not been easy to have are taking place in corridors in over-crowded hospitals.


Advance Care Planning has two major components. The first is thinking about and sharing with others your personal care preferences. The second is choosing your Substitute Decision Maker, a person who will speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. It’s also a good idea to write down your preferences.

If you should ever be deemed incapable of consenting to or refusing treatment or other care, your Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) will need to communicate your wishes to your health care team. That is why it is so important for you to communicate your wishes clearly to your SDM. This is about far more than just having a will. Yet only about one in seven Canadian adults has an Advance Care Plan.

Over 200 citizens have attended our free Advance Care Planning Seminars that provide information and education about plans and their importance. Seminars will resume when public health regulations permit.

4. Developing our communities’ social network infrastructures

What does “helping” look like today? How might we tell stories to celebrate current activity, and reinforce and encourage successful practices? How can we learn from existing small neighbourhoods and buildings with active, supportive social networks?   How might we help people find and access services? The current system is difficult for families to navigate.

Current approaches

Rob Wood and Allen Prowse are developing an asset-mapping tool that will provide information on currently available community services.

Many people in the Kingston area support the goals of Compassionate Communities Kingston Canada (CCKC) through the wonderful work they perform on a daily basis.

Together, they are:

  •  changing our culture from one in which we instinctively decline help from personal and community networks to one that readily asks for and accepts help, and
  •  creating a community culture that is confident, willing and capable of offering and providing help.

As this work evolves, it is important to recognize individuals, businesses, organizations and communities that already exemplify CCKC goals. Recently, students from the international Health Care Administration program at St. Lawrence College accepted a request to apply lessons learned about CCKC to a project that involved interviewing and writing about these individuals and organizations. They did this with the guidance of their instructor Julie White and with the support of Eleanor Rivoire, CCKC Steering Committee member, and Ann Lukits, a former journalist. The process itself is a living example of asking for help and responding to need.

Some stories give the perspective of those who provide services to those with unique needs, others the perspective of those who have taken part in projects or received services, and in some cases both. They help raise awareness of projects, initiatives or services that might otherwise remain unknown and of benefit to you the reader or someone you know. They may also trigger interest in becoming involved in a project in your own network or neighbourhood.

We hope you enjoy reading accounts of the different ways that actions are being taken to meet needs and contribute to Compassionate Kingston! We look forward to sharing more stories in the future.

Advance Care PlanningBereaved Families of OntarioDeath CaféDeath CareEnd-of-Life DoulaFor the Love of SeniorsHospice KingstonMcBurney Park Neighbourhood AssociationThe Seniors CentreThe Shipyards Community

Two Occupational Therapy Community Development Queen’s students, Renee Dentrement and Katy Palaic, are working with Peter Merkley to prepare a volunteer manual for Compassionate Communities Kingston.

5. Developing our internal infrastructure

How can we best coordinate the work?  What about funding?  How do we reach a variety of age groups?  What role might social media play?  How do we keep our website up to date?

Current approach

Florence Campbell is overseeing the updating and maintenance of our website. Yuelin Ge, a recent Queen’s urban planning graduate.

Get Involved

Get Involved


We encourage citizens who are interested in sharing the possibility of a more compassionate, more caring Kingston to become involved in our Compassionate Communities initiative.  Get involved in a way that suits your own personal interests, skills and background.

SIGN UP with us to volunteer your time and talent with a network of citizens who share our vision.

LET US KNOW about existing compassionate programs in which you are already involved.

CREATE OPPORTUNITIES for people to have conversations about planning for end-of-life OR supporting each other.

  • Get people together in remembrance of people who have died by organizing an event
  • Organize an event around Canada’s National Advance Care Planning Day April 16, 2020

ENCOURAGE Supportive Environments

The Scottish National Partnership suggests that often people want to help one other, but find that something gets in the way.  For example, many people don’t know their neighbours very well, so feel that offering support could be an intrusion. Some might want to comfort a colleague, but are worried about leaving their desk because of workplace policies. Children in school may want to offer condolences to a bereaved teacher, but they are warned not to by school management.

Are there ways to break down some of these barriers? Are there ways of encouraging more supportive cultures and structures within institutions such as workplaces and schools? Can local people take action to make neighbourhoods friendlier and kinder places?

  • Nurture Neighbourliness
  • Encourage Supportive workplaces
  • Create more Supportive Schools

DONATE funds to help support our initiative.

Your Availability


Past Events

Community Engagement Conversations
Community Engagement Conversations
Advance Care Planning Sessions
Advance Care Planning Sessions

Upcoming Events

All events are currently postponed

Check back periodically.


Web Resources


Dealing with a devastating life-threatening diagnosis: The Gini Rosen Story

Queen’s University CFRC Radio Interview about Compassionate Communities and Advance Care Planning. Wednesday, June 5, 2019, 11:30 a.m. (expires September 1; podcast under development).

In Support of Compassionate Communities, Alia Hogben, Kingston Whig Standard.


Speak Up Ontario:  Speak Up Ontario, a partnership between Hospice Palliative Care Ontario (HPCO) and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA), provides education and Ontario-based tools and resources that comply with Ontario laws.  Included is information on Advance Care Planning.

Ontario Government, Attorney General:   provides forms for both Power of Attorney for Property and Personal Care.  … Note: The Ontario Government’s 1994 Power of Attorney Kit is still valid for use.

Regional Geriatric Programs of Ontario: a network of specialized geriatric services created in collaboration with primary care physicians, community health professionals and others to meet the needs of frail and vulnerable seniors.  Caregiver education included.  Regional Geriatric Programs of Ontario.

What is Self-Directed Care?


Pallium Canada.  The Compassionate Communities Exchange:  a digital space to contribute to the conversations surrounding Compassionate Communities in Canada—learn from the inspiring work of other community champions across Canada and discover new resources to help you launch community-wide change.

Will the Millennials be the first generation to stop fearing death?  Why an increasing number of young people are writing their wills and arranging their funerals.  The Walrus.

Abundant Community Edmonton.


The Town Trying to Cure Loneliness: Loneliness and isolation can trigger a host of other problems, particularly for our health. But a town in Somerset, in the United Kingdom, appears to have taken a big step towards alleviating the problem.

Mortals Anonymous:  Death Cafes, a place where people go to talk about dying.

Death over Dinner:  an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment.  We invite you to gather friends and family and fill a table.

How to prepare yourself for a good end of life.  Katy Butler, author of “The Art of Dying Well” (Scribner, 2019).

Death over Dinner:  an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment.  We invite you to gather friends and family and fill a table.

Richard Smith: The public health of death, dying, and grief has been neglected, but now is the time.

Contact Us

Email Compassionate Communities