As community developer for the United Way's Better at Home program, April Struthers has the task of estimating how many Sunshine Coast seniors are isolated and/or vulnerable.
The majority of older adults wish to live independently as long as possible, but as the risk of physical and cognitive decline increases with age, the risk of vulnerability also increases.
According to B.C. Stats, "For the first time since reporting began, persons 65 years of age and older outnumbered newborns to 14 year olds in B.C."
The Sunshine Coast's senior population is much higher than the provincial average.
"We are living longer and the number of residents over the age of 65 is increasing and projected to grow," Struthers said. "As we age, other risk factors increase such as social isolation as we lose our friends and loved ones. Geographic distances for outlying areas like Pender Harbour diminish access to suitable transportation. Access to suitable transportation is vital to participation in community, and being connected to community decreases the likelihood of elder abuse, neglect or self-neglect. The vast majority of our seniors are socially active, healthy and capable, but we also have others who struggle with day-to-day tasks that the agile take for granted."
Furthermore, life circumstances can very quickly change the picture for any individual and can lead to a significant loss in quality of life. How many seniors do we have in this community who could successfully maintain their independence with a little bit of practical support?
The Sunshine Coast has an opportunity to launch the new Better at Home program with the help of the United Way to provide non-medical home support services such as light housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation to appointments, simple home repairs, friendly visiting, light yard work or snow shoveling.
"In order for this to happen, we need the support and the will of the community to identify priorities and make this program a reality for the Sunshine Coast," Struthers said.
A community meeting will be held on Nov. 28 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt where the findings of this project will be presented along with a final chance to provide input.
Lunch will be provided. To register or provide input to this project, call Struthers at 604-989-4223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see www.betterathome.ca.
© Coast Reporter