$250K donation aims to help the North Shore's low-income seniors

For social worker Rick Lawrie, the story of a senior citizen having to sell her wedding ring in order to pay for the eye exam she needs to drive is, tragically, all too common.

“We see this all the time,” said Lawrie, addressing a packed room in the atrium of Lions Gate Hospital Thursday morning.

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Lawrie told the crowd about low-income seniors or older adults with empty cupboards, inadequate nutrition, and mattresses that were so old they were warped completely. He talked about the home of one senior that was overrun with mice, but they couldn’t afford the exterminator that would have put an end to all the nasty scurrying.

Referring to a sizeable donation from a seniors’ residence organization with three locations on the North Shore, Lawrie said he was hopeful it might become a little easier to make life better for low-income seniors in the community.

“I love this fund because it’s like Spackle – it covers many of the cracks in the social safety net,” he said.

On Feb. 27, the Amica Helping Hands Charity – the charitable arm of Amica Senior Lifestyles –donated $250,000 to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation which, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, will use the funds over a five-year period to support North Shore seniors who are living in poverty.

The funds will mainly help medically distressed and vulnerable seniors in need, many of whom already live in government housing, have multiple medical conditions and live in poverty or are alone, according to Sandra Edelman, Vancouver Coastal Health’s home and community program manager.

“Typically, these needs are not being funded by health services which leaves the case managers, the social workers, [and] the home support workers scrambling to find other sources of funding, which is at best hit-and-miss,” said Edelman.

More than 35,000 seniors reside on the North Shore, said Edelman, adding that it’s estimated that 10 per cent are living in poverty.

The quarter-million-dollar fund, which will be spent with oversight from joint LGHF and VCH committees that will determine how to allocate the money, will be used to help with everything from providing basic necessities like food and laundry services, to ensuring that low-income seniors have easy access to transportation.

“It’s dealing with those real true social determinants of health, where if you can actually meet some of the basic necessities in terms of food, shelter, medication, some transportation, laundry and so on – if you can actually meet those necessities that a senior has, you can keep them in their homes much longer,” said Edelman.

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North Shore Amica residents, flanked by Doug MacLatchy and Judy Savage, with a cheque for $250,000 - photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

Amica CEO and Helping Hands chair Doug MacLatchy praised residents at various Amica properties for their fundraising efforts in helping other seniors who may be living in potentially more isolated and limited situations.

“We have residents from Amica Lions Gate, Amica Edgemont Village, and Amica West Vancouver here today, all of whom have deep personal connections to this hospital and this community. Without them, this donation would not have been possible,” said MacLatchy. 

Judy Savage, LGHF president and CEO, talked about how unique the sizeable donation was because it focused on the foundation’s work outside of the traditional hospital setting.

“So many of our donations come to acute care, which is the hospital. This one is strictly benefiting people in the community,” said Savage. “We’re trying to keep people out of the hospital, we’re trying to keep them safe and well at home.”

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