The rural community of Seymour Arm, British Columbia is remote and isolated, and as a result many of our senior citizens lacked easy access to important primary health services. So we formed the nonprofit organization Aging With Ease in Rural Communities (AWE) to address this issue. We developed a pilot project and, working in conjunction with Interior Health Authority, implemented programs for the seniors in our community. At Aging With Ease in Rural Communities, we strive to promote and maintain independent living for our seniors and people coping with disabilities in our remote and isolated area. We do this by contracting out to Service Providers (Independent Contractors) to assist with home help, compassionate companionship, meals, emergency transportation, generator maintenance, solar power maintenance, supplying firewood for the winter, chimney cleaning, and snow shoveling. We worked to promote intergenerational learning experiences with the elders, which help create a supportive environment within the community. By reaching out to our vulnerable seniors and those with disabilities, empowering them and including them, we help them maintain an active lifestyle within their community. We have received more than 100 letters of support for our efforts in the community.
Aging With Ease in Rural Communities (AWE) - Seymour Arm, British Columbia, Canada
During a meeting to discuss community concerns, the inaccessibility of primary health care services for seniors in our remote and isolated area was identified as a primary issue that needed to be addressed. In response to this situation, a demographical overview of the community was done, a plan was created, and Aging With Ease in Rural Communities was formed. The services were launched successfully, and the length of the project was set for three years with the anticipation of continuation.
Community input was gathered through structured interviews and informal conversations. We obtained 101 letters of support from members of the community, as well as a letter of support from the community association, our local governing body. Our mission was to reach out to vulnerable seniors and the disabled, so that they could maintain an active lifestyle within their own environment. We worked to establish a formal network of service providers, participants, volunteers and local organizations that support our mandate in the most cost-effective manner.
We educated the community about the growing problem, gathered input, and then involved the community in creating the solution. We held several events, including a Health and Wellness Fair, an Open House, an Art Auction with art supplied by local artists, a raffle, and an ice cream stand at the community summer sizzler. We also declared a specific day in July as Senior Recognition Day and developed a community garden. Each of these events served the dual purposes of bringing attention to the isolation that seniors can face, and helping engage them in the community.
It was essential that the project be evaluated and assessed in a number of different ways: using service providers and participant surveys, feedback, formal assessments, etc. Using a wide variety of tools helped provide input from participants, service providers, the Board of Directors and the public. The evaluations suggested that the programs being implemented were having a large impact not only on the participants but also on the community as a whole. The information that we received revealed program changes to be made, such as adjusting user fees for some of the programs, changing our time frames, and new programs that could be implemented.
Qualitative, quantitative and timeline evidence will be considered in a summary assessment in order to maintain the valuable aspects of the project. A recommended future course of action will be proposed, involving the community as well as government sectors.
The community has been educated about the growing problems facing our senior citizens, and we have involved the community in a partnership to create a solution. The community now has a sense of security about getting older, and retiring people can choose to live here with an easy mind knowing that a support system exists. A non-denominational Sunday service has been started, a library day was created along with a reading group, and a community garden has been established. By creating this support system, we ensure that our founding senior citizens and those with disabilities feel secure and valued within the community, and as a result, the community maintains a valuable link to its history.
Aging With Ease in Rural Communities' Website: http://awesociety.ca/