To measurably reduce the rate of social isolation among seniors in Nanaimo BC, with a special focus on vulnerable/high risk senior populations.
Background, Rationale and Focus
Nanaimo is a small city with a population of 86,057 people (2014). Nanaimo comprises a high proportion of adults 55 years and over (37.4% compared to 31% for BC overall). Nanaimo is growing – with the population increasing by 32.5% between 2004 and 2014 (compared to 11.5% growth for BC overall in the same period). Our focus is on seniors over age 55 living in the city of Nanaimo with an emphasis on those seniors who are most isolated, and those most likely to become socially isolated.
Five collaborating organizations make up Nanaimo Seniors Connect: Nanaimo Family Life Association (non-profit); Nanaimo Womens’ Resource Centre (non-profit), City of Nanaimo (municipal government), Life Line (social enterprise) HealthWell Educators and Consultants Ltd. (private). The backbone functions are shared by all partners and decision-making is by consensus.
Theory of Change
Seniors in Nanaimo, particularly the most vulnerable, experience significant barriers that limit their ability to access support when they need it, to regularly participate in activities, and to feeling connected and valued. Barriers can be individual, cultural, institutional or systemic and interact with each other. We are addressing these through a community-wide comprehensive, collaborative, socially innovative approach driven by seniors for seniors that aims to reduce social isolation among seniors by:
- providing appropriate information, education, tools and training to the public and seniors services to reduce ageism, increase awareness of seniors’ isolation, promote social inclusion/support age-friendliness,
- providing services/ activities that directly address the risk factors for seniors’ isolation.
- recognizing and building on seniors’ strengths and contributions in leadership roles and as volunteers, and increasing opportunities for social interaction, thereby increasing seniors’ sense of being connected and valued, supporting a sense of purpose, and facilitating their social integration.
Strategies: Impact Plan Objectives and Examples of Organizations’ Activities
- To identify and address systemic/community barriers to seniors’ participation
Barriers, and potential strategies, have been identified through focus groups, community wide consultations and surveys. Top issues were getting around, access to information and services, ageism and food security around which were formed action groups composed of seniors and service providers.
- Ideas Exchange Events were held to engage public/seniors and service providers to develop strategies to address barriers.
- Getting Around Action Group: drivers’ cessation, Ride the Bus; car sharing; work with City planners to build a more livable “senior-friendly” city that encourages connectivity.
- Access to Information/Services Action Group: Senior Connecters- trained seniors man pop up booths and provide info re resources; Seniors Connector newsletter; Seniors’ Pocket Resource Card provides gateway information for seniors’ services.
- Food Security Action Group – Seniors Food Guide; Mapping of accessible food sources;
- Food Legacy Project—peer sharing of skills in growing and preserving food.
- Ant-Ageism Action Group: Play commissioned that focuses on need for connection; Celebrating Seniors—October community wide schedule of events promoted; Seniors Health Town Hall- give voice to seniors’ concerns to health authority about services/access. Self-Guided E-learning module for service providers about impact of social isolation. Community Champion Awards for senior volunteers.
- To inspire agencies, the public & individuals to take action to facilitate seniors’ social inclusion.
- Public awareness campaign about impact of social isolation; presentations to multiple and diverse audiences; social media.
- Application to Province to become an Age Friendly Community.
- Digital Media Festival – Reframing Aging—students created digital presentation that frames aging/seniors positively.
- Champion training – empowers citizens of all ages to recognize and act on behalf of seniors who need connections.
- Working with Neighbourhood Associations to increase age-friendliness
- Weekly TV show about, for, and by seniors – showcases seniors’ talents and knowledge, provides information.
- Living History series – recognizes and values seniors’ experience and shifts thinking about ageist stereotypes.
- Development of an age friendly business accreditation program
- To develop seniors’ leadership capacity
- Seniors make up the Nanaimo Seniors Task Force and are driving the implementation of the Nanaimo Age Friendly Action Plan.
- Collaborating Organizations’ projects are overseen by seniors steering committees.
- Seniors are facilitators/presenters and deliver of community education.
- Seniors lead weekly television show for seniors and the Action Groups, and participate in advocacy.
- To meet unmet needs through program development & partnerships
- Seniors Connect Centre provides health and wellness activities to maintain health and mobility; social activities to support seniors to make friends and acquaintances; counseling services to support problem-solving and mental health, etc, and for seniors to connect with each other.
- Outreach Services are provided in a variety of locations under varying circumstances including homelessness, poverty, domestic abuse, physical/mental health challenges.
- A “Check in service” provides regular check-in calls to isolated seniors to provide
- support, inform them of opportunities for social participation, and facilitate their connection to support and help when needed
- Partnerships with community agencies: Aboriginal Centre, Aging Out (GLBQT2), FoodShare, Island Health to address needs of specific marginalized communities.
Outcomes and Results
Pre and post randomized population survey to measure change in social isolation among seniors at the population level, and an evaluation of the implementation of the Seniors Connect Impact Plan.
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