Supporting seniors in their homes

Local seniors will soon have more resources. United Way’s Better At Home program aims to help seniors live at home for as long as possible

Salmon Arm seniors hear from Linda Yule

Salmon Arm seniors hear from Linda Yule

Seniors in Salmon Arm will soon have several more resources. United Way’s Better At Home program aims to help seniors live at home for as long as possible and should be running by January 2014.

Local co-ordinator Sue Rossi and has spent several months researching the need for the program in the Shuswap. Better at Home is a $20-million province-wide project funded by the provincial government and managed by the United Way of the Lower Mainland. Rossi’s presentation earlier this month included field co-ordinator Debbie Sharp who said Better at Home is aiming to have funding for the Salmon Arm program by October.

“The way this rolls out is up to you,” Sharp told the 30 seniors in attendance. “It looks different in each community.”

The Better at Home program provides non-medical services such as yard work, home repairs, transportation, snow shovelling, housekeeping and grocery shopping. Sharp says it fills a gap that normally causes seniors to move into care homes or to cities where there are more resources. The program is available for anyone who self-identifies as a senior and fees operate in a sliding scale based on self-declared income, with some being free.

“The structure is absolutely wonderful.” said 81-year-old Anne-Marie Maide, who attended Rossi’s presentation. “We have many seniors that could help with Better at Home but also receive. It’s a wonderful program. If we can get it off the ground it will be fantastic and leave us to enjoy a lot of years in our own homes.”

Rossi has been involved in community engagement to assess the need in Salmon Arm and how the program will operate in the community. Her research included focus groups with more than 160 people including Canoe Seniors, Retired Steel Workers and Interior Health. She also conducted interviews with non-profit agencies, service organizations, health organizations and municipal, provincial and federal government representatives.

Rossi found the services most needed locally were transportation, house cleaning, seasonal yard services and friendly visits. She also said seniors are afraid of being taken advantage of and need a reliable program where they can get information as well as services. Rossi said many seniors are unlikely to seek help.

“We need to normalize the fact that it’s okay to ask for help,” Rossi said.

Because Salmon Arm’s program will be one of 68 across B.C., Rossi says she hopes it will be a good resource for seniors and something they trust.

The geographical boundaries of the program have not been determined but it’s possible it will be available to much of the Shuswap area. Rossi says there will always be opportunity for new input and growth within the program. There will be a mix of paid and volunteer workers from local non-profit organizations.

“It’s really about people helping people,” Rossi said.