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Sundre society aims to identify gaps in seniors services

Sundre Seniors Protected and Respected Under Community Engagement (S.P.R.U.C.E.) welcomes ideas and suggestions
Laurie Lewis, left, is involved at the Sundre Seniors’ Supportive Living facility’s Drop-in Centre, and Jane Atkins is the co-chair of Sundre Seniors Protected and Respected Under Community Engagement. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE – A local society on a mission to improve the quality of life for the community’s seniors is receptive to suggestions and ideas on what kinds of programs and services might benefit Sundre’s elder population.

Sundre Seniors Protected and Respected Under Community Engagement (S.P.R.U.C.E.) hosted an interagency meeting on Jan. 30 to explore options alongside potential partners at the Seniors Drop-in Centre located on the north end of the Sundre Supportive Seniors Living centre.

Jane Atkins, the society’s co-chair, said on Feb. 15 during a follow-up interview at the drop-in centre that a wide spectrum of different organizations that serve seniors were invited to participate in the brainstorming session.

Attending the roundtable discussion were representatives from more than a dozen groups, including the Sundre West Country Centre, the Sundre and District Museum, Sunde Home Care, the Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society (GNP), the Sundre Community Van Society, the Royal Canadian Legion Sundre Branch #223, the Sundre Municipal Library, the Sundre Hospital Futures Committee as well as the RCMP and the Peaks to Prairies Primary Care Network.

Among the service areas discussed were: physical and mental health; safety and security; social support; physical environment; personal well-being; as well as social environment and engagement.

“We looked at what we have here in Sundre already,” said Atkins.

While there are a number of services and programs catering to enhancing personal well being – such as but certainly not limited to musical entertainment, anti-isolation trips, the community garden and subsidized transportation for medical appointments – one suggestion that came up was reintroducing the local Meals on Wheels that has been in hiatus since the pandemic.

The conversation about programs more specifically intended to providing social supports – including referrals to informational resources about elder abuse as well as dementia training for care partners – identified the absence of any local groups or programs for people living with dementia.   

“We need dementia programming,” she said, referring not only to the SSSL but also within the whole community generally speaking.

“We have to make people aware that there are people with dementia out there,” she said.

Drawing from her own personal experience with her father, Atkins said he would always carry with him a tag that included his identifying information along with contacts to call in the event he ever became disoriented.

“If you have somebody just wandering around, people don’t tend to go up to them and say, ‘Do you need some help?’” she said.

“We need to get that compassion going, and that understanding.”

As well, another discussion on the topic of physical environments such as transportation and accommodations, identified as a big issue not only a housing supply shortage but especially the expense, said Atkins.

Physical and mental health initiatives – a wide spectrum of services ranging from walking groups to Palliative Care and Home Care – were identified as one area where Sundre shines.

“So much of this we’ve already got going, which is really nice,” she said.

And while there are also social environment and engagement initiatives such as knitting and other crafting groups as well as cooking and art classes, intergenerational programming was found to be lacking, she said, adding many children seem to have lost the respect and interest in interacting with their elders.

Physical accessibility was also identified as an area with room for improvement, she said, adding, “people that are handicapped can’t get into every building they need to get into.”

Additionally, there was a conversation about the importance of raising awareness about potential scams to prevent becoming victims of fraud, as well as identifying signs of elder abuse and encouraging healthy relationships.

Social prescribing also surfaced as a main point of conversation during the meeting. Social prescribing is described as a formal referral pathway that connects health-care providers with community-based services and aging-in-community supports for seniors.   

Link workers, who are non-clinical professionals employed by community-based, seniors-serving organizations, bridge the gap between health-care providers and the available supports and programs within a community. They can be volunteers who for example introduce a senior who has never been to or perhaps even heard of the Sundre West Country Centre, which regularly hosts social opportunities such as playing cards. The idea is to help a senior who might be shy about breaking the proverbial ice, to establish a social network.  

While there is a volunteer aspect to the Link worker program, a coordinator is also needed, said Atkins, adding she hopes that S.P.R.U.C.E. will be able to act as the coordinator.

“Hopefully we can get funding for it,” she said.

Background information from Healthy Aging Alberta says social prescribing is intended to complement overall health care, not replace or substitute any other services. According to a 2017 study published by the University of Westminster, there were 28 per cent fewer primary care consultations and 24 per cent fewer emergency room visits for people who are receiving social prescribing support.

S.P.R.U.C.E. originally launched under GNP’s banner through funding that had been awarded for coordinated community response programs, and just this past summer became a non-profit society, said Atkins.

“GNP as a hub is just the most phenomenal thing we can have. They’re a huge support of the seniors,” she said.

The S.P.R.U.C.E. committee meets at the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre at SSSL at 1:30 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month, and Atkins said anyone who is so inclined is invited to attend either to ask questions or even offer suggestions or ideas.

Alternatively, anyone interested in finding out more can send questions by email to [email protected].

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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