IT'S better at home.
Seniors are happiest when they're in their own homes surrounded by friends, family and neighbours. Everybody knows that. Why then aren't there more programs available to help seniors live and stay in their homes longer?
I've got some good news. There's a new program, titled Better at Home, that's designed to do just that.
"The Better at Home program helps seniors with simple day-to-day tasks, thereby helping them maintain their independence and stay connected to their community," says Jessie Sutherland, the community developer for the Better at Home program for the North Shore. "The hope is that if seniors can get the support that they need at home then they don't have to access more care earlier than they need it."
The range of Better at Home services available varies from community to community depending on the needs of local seniors. Examples of Better at Home services include grocery shopping, minor home repairs, transportation to appointments, light housekeeping, friendly visits and light yard work.
Sutherland wants to be clear about one thing.
"The Better at Home program does not substitute or replace critically needed home support services provided by community health workers in the health authorities," she says. "The program is for seniors who are generally healthy overall but require modest help with a few tasks so they can continue to live independently and be fully engaged in their community."
Sutherland's role is to engage seniors in determining their priorities from the basket of services available through the program and to help identify a lead agency or partnership of agencies to deliver the service on the North Shore. To date, she has consulted widely with seniors themselves, organizations that serve seniors and others in the community who are knowledgeable about the needs of seniors.
Seniors are invited to attend a public forum at the Harry Jerome Recreation Centre on Friday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. where the findings of the project will be presented as well as a final chance to provide input will be offered.
The three top issues that have emerged from the focus groups to date are transportation, grocery shopping and housekeeping.
"Interestingly enough," says Sutherland, "different groups had different priorities, so for the focus group conducted with members of the Chinese community, friendly visiting came out on top whereas overall on the North Shore friendly visiting was down at number five."
The Better at Home program will be offered at up to 60 sites across BC. Funding for the program comes from the Ministry of Health.
The United Way of the Lower Mainland has designed the Better at Home program and in each community a local non-profit agency will be selected to deliver the Better at Home services.
All seniors living in a Better at Home community can apply to receive services. Some services will be provided by paid staff, others by volunteers. Fees for Better at Home services are determined on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. Some services will be free.
Some of the services that will be offered through the Better at Home program are already available in the community, for a fee, through the private sector and non-profits.
Sutherland anticipates my next question before it's asked and suggests the Better at Home program may actually lead to more business for the private sector, not less.
"The Better at Home program publicizes an important need for more support for seniors to live at home," she says, "so in the long run the program may actually increase business because as it becomes more the norm for seniors to ask for help, more seniors will get that help when they need it."
Sutherland cites budget constraints, managing expectations and trying to serve an area that stretches from Deep Cove to Horseshoe Bay as the immediate challenges going forward. And while Better at Home is a three-year project that began in 2012, longer term funding is not yet secured.
Still, Sutherland remains optimistic. "I have great faith that the North Shore agencies will find a way to collaborate together to make the Better at Home program a success," she says.
Sutherland encourages all seniors who want to have their voices heard in shaping the Better at Home program to attend the public forum at Harry Jerome this week.
"This is your moment," she says, "and there is a free lunch."
A free lunch? I'll see you there. For more information, contact Jessie Sutherland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Carney is the executive director of the Lionsview Seniors' Planning Society. Ideas for future columns are welcome. Contact him at 604-985-3852 or send an email to email@example.com.