In September 2019, senior volunteers and service providers participated in a Shared Learning Event to become stronger allies with LGBTQ2S+ older adults. This population experiences significant barriers to social inclusion and accessing supports and services.
The session drew more than 70 participants from across Metro Vancouver. Jane Osborne, a Regional Mentor for the BC Community Response Network (CRN), stepped up to fill the shoes of the key speaker, who had been grounded by fog in Victoria. She presented professional and personal insight on the topic with warmth and humour.
Participants expanded learning through facilitated discussions. Session highlights included working together within a safe space to better understand LGBTQ2S+ terminology and ways to address barriers to inclusion.
Staff and senior leaders from across the region gathered at Burnaby Neighbourhood House in early August 2019. Participants reflected on how being part of Allies in Aging strengthened their capacity and effectiveness in reaching and connecting with isolated seniors. They also recognized the steep collective impact learning curve (especially when new staff came on board), and the importance of backbone support.
Highlights of being Allies in Aging partners included:
– Trying and testing new ideas shared across 30+ partner organizations;
– Applying what we learned through shared evaluation; and
– Growing from place-based projects to regional initiatives that increased seniors’ connections.
Nearly 250 seniors, service providers and community leaders gathered for our Allies in Aging in Action Conference in February 2019. The Pinnacle at the Pier ballroom buzzed with conversation and laughter as we connected around our collective work.
Andy is a volunteer driver for the Seniors on the Move (SOTM) program at Collingwood Neighbourhood House. He is a passionate volunteer who is eager to lend a hand when people need a little support.
Ron has cerebral palsy and uses SOTM because it improves his quality of life. Andy has been driving him consistently. Ron believes that the service is really beneficial, saving time and money, and giving him an opportunity to be independent. He appreciates Andy because he feels it’s not an easy job and he never complains and is always on time. The two have a great connection and energy about them.
For Andy, finding the right fit is a critical aspect of volunteering. Being a volunteer driver gives him an opportunity to get out of the house and he feels appreciated and inspired by the people he meets. It is flexible and he gets to socialize with everyone.
When meeting someone, he always contacts them in advance to understand their situation and needs, have a chat, and arrange time and location of pickup/drop-off. While Andy loves to stay in shape, he explained that you don’t need to be in amazing shape to help seniors: They know their limits and his number one rule is to always ask if seniors need help before he acts.
Language is the most difficult barrier. Andy slows down his speech to be clear and easy to understand. He’s not afraid to repeat himself in order to avoid misunderstandings. He recalled a situation when he took somebody to Service Canada and, in collaboration with the settlement team, took on a larger role than expected to help guide her through the process.
Andy is motivated because sometimes we are forced to be dispassionate – he sees that it could be anyone in that difficult position. He loves helping people and feeling a sense of accomplishment.
(Submission and photo by Geoffrey Wong, gently edited)
The path to connection can sometimes cover a few stepping-stones. Two years ago, a senior spoke with Welcoming Seniors’ Spaces volunteers and staff conducting outreach at a food bank. He later attended a Volunteer Impact workshop about elder abuse conversations called, “It’s Not Right,” where he shared a challenge he was experiencing with his landlord.
A drain needed to be repaired but the senior didn’t want to upset the building manager in case he needed help with other things. Workshop participants brainstormed solutions and the senior took resource brochures home. Pinning a brochure to the manager’s door led to a helpful conversation about the drain and his concerns about rocking the boat. The senior was happy to be able to deal with the situation effectively and keep the relationship intact.
Seniors Hub volunteers and staff doing door-to-door outreach give away calendars or leave behind door hangers with information about community programs and activities. An 85+ year old learned about Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House from a door hanger and dropped by for the first time. He is a regular walker and discovered it is a safe resting place. Program leaders got to know him a bit more and were able to connect him with programs that would be a good fit.
(Shared by Paola Antia, Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House, Sept. 2019)
Seniors on the Move marked one year since the launch of the 211 Seniors Transportation Hotline in July, 2019. They extended their reach to seniors and organizations across the region through workshops and events, contributing to the number of calls to bc211 for seniors’ transportation-related information increasing to 12.2% of total inquiries. (Calls about housing and homelessness account for 27.7%, followed by calls for health issues at 20.7%).
Most requests were for medical appointments and post-surgery transportation needs. People also seek information on the BC Bus Pass Program, HandyDART, TransLink, Taxi-Saver, and volunteer driver programs.
(Photo: Senior on the Move seniors in transit, showcasing Call 211 cards.)
Allies in Aging attended and exhibited our work at the Geriatric Services Conference in June 2019, sharing resources and conversations with 150+ people. Many worked with seniors in residential care settings and spoke about seniors experiencing isolation in spite of living in a group setting. Speakers covered topics ranging from neuroethics at end-of-life to social robots. Top quotes: “We are not machines.” (Grant Gillett). “Exercise is medicine.” (Teresa Liu-Ambrose). “Mobility is a human right.” (Carol Estabrooks).
Seniors on the Move hosted Minister of Seniors Filomena Tassi in March 2019. Members of the Seniors Advisory and Stakeholder Committee shared experiences, highlights, impact and ongoing transportation challenges.
The Seniors Hub team hosted a “Leadership Style Discovery and Conflict Resolution” workshop in January 2019. Participants learned several ways to provide direction, implement plans and motivate people. They also learned about behavioural patterns and methods for effective leadership and conflict resolution.The audience found the workshop very helpful, relevant and interesting. Everyone was excited to engage with fellow volunteers and learn unique styles that would benefit them in the future. For leadership style, people used coloured cards as a way of matching personality with the style best fitting for them. They identified characteristics that would enable them to enjoy their volunteer roles and assist them in becoming a better leader.
One of the practicum students at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House said that she has taken conflict resolution in nonviolent communication classes but this was an excellent way to practice resolving conflict in a not-for-profit-volunteer scenario.
The workshop was a huge success. The Seniors Hub is hosting a follow-up workshop on May 21: Conflict Resolution Part 2.
[Submission by Emem-Obong Lucia Inyang, gently edited]
“Annabel Chan has been part of our Seniors Hub Advisory Committee from the very beginning. She is an active volunteer who cares for others in the community. Annabel runs the walking pole club, inspiring seniors to stay active and be healthy. She is friendly, kind and is often finding new ways to engage community residents.
This fall, Annabel and a group of volunteers took some of the most fragile seniors from Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House out to the park for a walk. She scouted several locations before settling on a route that met abilities and made sure to have enough volunteers to pair with senior participants.
Annabel continues helping us shape initiatives to connect isolated seniors in the community to the organization. When an idea comes to mind, she takes charge. She is a source of inspiration to all of us.”
[December, 2019. Submission was lightly edited.]
“Michele Monno is originally from Triggiano, Italy. Michele started baking at the age of 12 continuing until he retired from CP Rail where he worked for 25 years. Since retiring he likes to keep his hand in baking for the love of it and gifting it to others!
When Michele needed some help, Vancouver Coastal Health, referred him to the Better at Home Program at Mount Pleasant Neighourhood House (MPNH). A Better at Home housekeeper suggested he visit MPNH which he did last year.
Michele enjoys stopping by for a coffee and coming for seniors’ meals. He says he keeps coming back because he likes the people and conversation. Over time MPNH has become like a second home to Michele where he likes the freedom to stay as long as he wants. ‘I’ve met quite a few people and started to make friends.’ “
Seniors on the Move made the most of the B.C. Seniors Week, holding daily events June 4 – 8, 2018. After a launch event with funders and media, project leaders headed for Lougheed Skytrain Station to promote the 211 Seniors Transportation Hotline, distribute resources and talk to community members about a variety of transit resources.
On day 2, they were at the Arbutus Greenway with West Side Seniors Hub partners. 100 seniors tried out different electric bikes and a trike. Cycle City Tours donated the trike to the project. It will be available at future events for seniors to explore different options for transportation and fitness.
Day 3 was spent assessing the walkability of 5 – 6 different areas in Vancouver with partners from the SFU Gerontology Program. They created a digital version of the SFU “SWAN” assessment tool and also had it translated into Traditional and Simplified Chinese.
On day 4, they went on HandyDART and rode the North Shore Go Bus. Day 5 was spent with TransLink at the TriCities Wellness Forum, sharing information about transit and options for when people stop driving.
(Photo: Promoting 211 Seniors Transportation Hotline at Lougheed Skytrain Station.)
Earlier summer 2018, about 15 people joined a Neighbors’ Gathering Party for seniors at Coleopy Park, a subsidized housing site with 58 units for low-income seniors and families. In addition to fun activities, they learned about community services.
Mary, a senior resident, led a chair exercise activity. In the beginning, she was not very confident and forgot some movements. A Neighbourly Together volunteer provided gentle guidance until Mary resumed her leadership role. Mary was empowered by nice feedback from the group and hopes to run a chair exercise group in the building if possible.
Lily came to South Vancouver Neighbourhood House with a tight frown. She had to find a shelter in a week before the move-out deadline. “When renters know I pay my bills on income assistance, they always have excuses to say no.” Lily has health issues due to hard work in her young age, and she has to raise her teenage daughter on her limited income assistance. “My daughter is 16 years old, but we still have to share a small bedroom to save money.” With multiple barriers – finance, health, employment, and language – Lily is experiencing a tough time.
Unfortunately, there are no shelter services at SVNH to help Lily with her urgent housing need. However, staff did not give up. We made calls and connected her with a Vietnamese-speaking worker at another agency. “Their office is very close to my home. I can walk there and save a bus ticket.” Knowing she uses regular compass card, staff double-checked information for an annual bus pass. When Lily learned she is eligible to pay only $45 for a whole year pass, she calculated quickly. “I can save about $100 for the rest of this year!” For the first time that morning, Lily had bright smile.
“As a caregiver of my mother, networking is so important for her and me. No one wants to be isolated, but as the older senior and caregiver is so easy to be isolated. I don’t want to be and I know that to learn different resources, make a new friend and attend different activities, it is good for my mother and me. At the same time, I really love to give my hand to help other seniors. I believe that this is the way to build up a better and harmonious community.
Mencius, an early Chinese philosopher once advocated this: ‘Care for my own aged parents and extend the same care to the aged parents of others; love my own young children and extend the same love to the children of others.'”
“For many years, we have not had a lovely day like today.”
More than 50 seniors living at Menno Court enjoyed a special day at the end of February 2018. For many years, they had not been able to come together to share food, celebrate a festival or watch a live music performance. But, they had all the happiness this year.
Menno Court is an independent living site with about 300 seniors. Most of them are low income and socially isolated. Since last summer, the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House – Allies in Aging – Neighbourly Together Project has provided information sessions, door-to-door outreach, and neighbourly gatherings there. It cheers up the seniors. They believe they are not forgotten.
During the Lunar New Year Festival, Neighbourly Together invited a Chinese traditional musical band to give a live performance. The band brought back sweet memory to the Chinese seniors, as well as to those from diverse cultural backgrounds. More exciting, a few residents shared their own talents such as playing harmonica and singing. Some seniors helped setting up in the early morning without being asking. They also felt so good when neighbours appreciated their volunteering.
Sam (not his real name) lives in BC Housing and was very much alone and isolated. Before outreach connected him with Burnaby Neighbourhood House, his main destination was a fast food restaurant near his home. After becoming a regular at the Seniors’ Together Program, he started to volunteer with set-up and now joins other seniors on a monthly outdoor program. More recently, Sam joined a new seniors’ community kitchen program, where he is learning about nutrition and how to cook for himself. Through his involvement with Allies, he has increased his social network and embraced a healthier lifestyle, even shifting to green tea instead of drinking coffee.
“When I was unexpectedly retired, I thought what do I do? I move forward. With the support of my family I was encouraged to get out and get involved in something new. I came to Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, I decided to take Senior Peer Counselling, which led to training as a Neighbourly Together volunteer. I just feel so good working with seniors. I bring patience and good listening skills.
“Now, I’ve gone from a volunteer to a leadership role, supporting a volunteer team doing Neighbourly Together outreach. I like to encourage other volunteers and motivate them. This kind of role has given me a new confidence. It has added so much to my life. I hope to enjoy the rest of my life as an active person. It has turned my life around 180 degrees. Embrace every day and say, ‘This is going to be a good day’. That’s how I live my life.”