Pan-Edmonton Group Addressing the Social Isolation of Seniors (P·E·G·A·S·I·S)

Even before the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) Pan-Canadian call for proposals, Edmonton was working hard to address issues that lead to isolation and loneliness.

Stakeholders indicated that more proactive work needed to be done in case-finding and assessing social connectedness. Finding socially-isolated seniors, reaching out to them (making them aware of opportunity), connecting and matching them to formal and informal supports, was felt to be the way to achieve better outcomes for isolated seniors. This was our strategy for action.

Our Collective Aspiration is to:

Create a community in Edmonton where seniors feel more valued, respected and their safety and wellbeing are actively supported.

Our Objective:

We will measurably reduce social isolation of “low-resource” seniors in the Edmonton region. Through collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders and seniors we will build the capacity of our community.

Our Partners:

The original P·E·G·A·S·I·S theory of change was that we could reduce social isolation by increasing the number of low-resource seniors in Edmonton who have support, participate regularly in activities, feel connected and feel valued. We anticipated that the six service delivery projects could be scaled up to reach more low-resourced seniors, thereby reducing social isolation.

All our partners are providing some sort of outreach to find and serve low-resourced seniors, but we are learning that we are finding and connecting with people once their lives have reached a crisis. Prevention is the key to reducing social isolation, and this requires a shift in social attitudes and practices. While low-resourced seniors may be at greater risk of isolation and loneliness, they are not alone. We are challenged by the stigma around aging, by our own cultural barriers that discourage family and social connectedness, and by socio-political policies, programs, and accountabilities that perpetuate ageism, frustration and isolation, and stigma around social supports.

Transportation and communications are the two keys to supporting seniors and helping them to maintain control of their lives as they age. Knowing what services are available and how to access them, and then being able to get to them, are far greater challenges than have previously been understood. Our systems and networks successfully serve the vast majority of people, but there are many people who do not have the knowledge or capacity to access existing systems when they need them. Our theory of change is shifting to address the challenge of building the resiliency of individuals by promoting and supporting social connectedness and inclusion.

We have provided volunteer-based door-through-door rides to low-resourced seniors with physical and mental challenges that make them ineligible or inappropriate for other public transit options.

They have provided 31,730 assisted rides to 823 seniors over 293,350 km using 37,670 volunteer hours.

63% of riders are at or below LICO.

Figure 1: Categories of activities made possible with assisted rides.

Our outreach projects have directly connected with 3,610 isolated seniors and provided supports that have helped them to recover a sense of control and well being in their lives. A critical number that we have not tracked is the number of people of all ages that we have touched through our various presentations, events, and communications activities. However, we conducted a Population Baseline Survey in early 2017 which we will repeat in early 2019, and we expect to see a shift in the numbers of people reporting increased support and help when they need it, greater participation rates in personally meaningful activities, and greater feelings of connection and being valued by family and friends.

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