In every corner of Canada, there are impoverished seniors struggling to get by. Many of them live on meagre pensions that cover the costs of rent and food but leave them with little else for smaller expenses.

Now, a new charitable organization is offering to help these seniors return a little dignity to their lives.

It's called Seniors in Need and is the brainchild of businessman Peter Cook, who runs Seniors For Seniors, a non-medical home care agency.

Cook came up with the idea after hosting a competition last December, featured by CTV News, in which he awarded $1,000 a month to the neediest senior.

He received so many stories of seniors in need, so many cries for help – and so many offers from people who wanted to do whatever they could to help -- he decided to create this organization.

"I am hopeful it will change a lot of people's lives, improve their lives," Cook says.

The service is essentially a registry of seniors in need of help, as identified by non-profit organizations. The agencies' requests for support on behalf of the seniors are posted on the Seniors In Need website, where people willing to help can read their stories and send a note about how they might be able to help.

While the organization isn't a registered charity and can't issue tax receipts, it does offer a way to connect directly to the sponsoring agency and the donor, eliminating administration costs. This means that the entire amount of each donation goes to the intended recipient.

"There is no intermediary taking a portion of it, and you see it go to the person who will receive the donation, right in your community," says Cook.

So far, about a dozen nursing agencies and community groups have signed up, posting requests like these:

  • An 89-year-old woman who can't afford to buy a walker
  • A senior who can't afford $750 to fix her dentures
  • A senior who can't afford $16 per month to attend an exercise program

In some cases, the request is for companionship. Ed Simpson, 87, is a decorated Second World War veteran in Mississauga, Ont. He lives with his cat, admitting many times he is "lonely."

His request, posted online, is for someone to help him go grocery shopping. That's because he is legally blind and has trouble seeing what's on the package.

"It might take an hour or so. So they can…if I give them a package to read they can tell me what is in the package because I don't know," Simpson told CTV News.

The organizers of Seniors in Need say they will only accept submissions from credible and reputable agencies working in the community, and they will review every application to make sure the submission is credible.

The Victoria Order of Nurses was among the first agencies to sign up to be a part of Seniors in Need. Anne Zielinski, the executive director of VON Toronto-York says she and her staff have seen too many seniors who are struggling to get by because they're in need of basic tools they simply can't afford.

"We see people who need exactly what Mr. Cook is promoting: financial assistance, groceries, wheelchairs -- it would just make such a difference in people's lives," she says

So far, most of the registry is populated by organizations working in Ontario. But the aim is to grow the organization further to include seniors in every part of the country, says Cook.

"The goal is to get it going nationally and keep it going, and try to eliminate a lot of these situations that should not occur in a first-world country,"

With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip