The District of Fort St. James in partnership with the Seniors Helping Seniors program have developed a new initiative aimed at ending elder isolation within the senior citizen community. The program is called Come With Me: A Seniors helping Seniors Inclusion Initiative.
Come with Me made it’s debut last Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the Fort St. James inter-community night market.
The service will compliment already existing senior citizen services and programs said Emily Colombo, the Economic Development Officer with the district.
A branch off of the Seniors Helping Seniors program which was started in 2012 as a delivery system for housebound seniors the program has expanded, first to a transportation service (of which there are 40 regular users) and now again to a activities and social program with the introduction of Come with Me.
The program brings seniors who are at risk or currently suffering from elder isolation to social events like the night market, film screenings at the National Historic Site, Tai Chi classes, Cirque de Soleil and carpet bowling tournaments to name only a few.
Additionally, the program is offering educational programs to seniors that focus on things like elder abuse and how to recognize the signs and handle abuse situations. Also included as part of the programs educational services is a healthy minds peer support group which is held at the Stuart Lake hospital as well as a Frauds and scams/caregiving workshop.
The Come with Me program outlined it’s mandate in a application to the Government of Canada (who are helping to fund the program through their New Horizons for Seniors program) saying:
“The main goal of this project is to develop, enhance and augment seniors activities in Fort St. James with a concerted effort on identifying and engaging seniors that may be at risk of isolation. We aim to immerse them in social activities while addressing their barriers in a dignified, respectful way. The development and delivery of this project will ensure that seniors will continue to be part of, supported,involved and meaningfully engaged in community civic and social activities.”
An estimated 10 per cent of the Fort St. James population is above the age of 65, according to a 2011 report by Statistics Canada and according to that report that percentage will increase to around 32 per cent over the next 10 years which would represent over 400 Fort St. James residents.
Elder isolation can lead to illness such as depression and a report by the Canadian Mental Health Association in 2012 reported that Canadians aged 65 and older are more at risk of suicide than other generations. Statistics like these show that the need for programs like Come with Me is palpable.
The program will, at it’s peak serve around 200 elderly people in the region.
The project is being administered by the district under the direction of the Seniors Action Committee (SAC) the administrative department of the Seniors Helping Seniors program.
The SAC is made up of numerous members from through the community including the College of New Caledonia, Nak’azdli First Nation and the Regional District of the Bulkley Nechako Rural area C. The SAC will be meeting regularly on a month to month basis to discuss the success of the program and ways in which it could be improved.
Colombo says that the program is always looking for volunteers drivers for the seniors programs.