Seniors’ program Better at Home recevies boost

Canada’s population continues to age rapidly and is as old as it’s ever been.

Canada’s population continues to age rapidly and is as old as it’s ever been. Fortunately, the government, both federal and provincial, is taking the right steps in response to that evolving demographic.

Terry Lake, health minister for the province of British Columbia, recently announced that $5 million would be earmarked for the Better at Home program to continue to support seniors’ independence in their homes and communities across the province.

“Seniors have told us that it is important that they are able to stay at home for as long as possible and not have to move just because they need a little assistance around the house,” Lake said in a press release last week. “Better at Home reflects our commitment to strengthening home and community supports.”

Better at Home is a non-medical home support program designed to offer support for seniors so they can continue to live in their homes while also remaining connected with their communities. Some of the programs and services could include light housekeeping, grocery shopping, friendly visits, transportation to appointments, minor home repairs, light yard work and snow shovelling.

Pilot projects for this service were introduced to rural and remote areas in April 2015 and are currently operating successfully in Arrow Lakes, North Central B.C., Robson Valley, Southern Gulf Islands, the Village of Granisle and here in the Columbia Valley.

The benefits of in-home care as opposed to institutional care in long-term care facilities can be profound, said Pat Cope, executive director of Invermere’s Family Dynamix.

A recent Conference Board of Canada report, Future Care for Canadian Seniors, indicates that in-home care costs approximately $45 a day in comparison to alternative methods like hospitals and long-term care facilities where seniors pay $450 and $135 a day respectively.

“As more and more of the baby boomers become seniors and seniors needing help, I think from the dollar perspective I think it’s a given that seniors need the most services available,” she said, noting that the benefits of the program don’t stop there.

“I think from a social perspective and health perspective, it’s been shown that seniors thrive much better when they’re in their own surroundings when they’re in their own homes and not institutionalized,” she said. “Many seniors want to stay home.”

Cope said the number of seniors looking to receive the services in the local community continues to increase every week as more see the benefits of staying at home. The Columbia Valley program runs in a catchment area from Canal Flats all the way to Spillimacheen. The program is managed by United Way of the Lower Mainland and delivered locally through Family Dynamix, and has a tiered cost associated with it depending on a person’s personal income level.

In addition to the Better at Home program, Family Dynamix will be offering another program, “Active Aging”, to seniors in the valley looking for engaging activities to stay involved in the community. It will include activities such as walking and gardening clubs along with various social functions like dances that will encourage physical fitness, said Cope. The first Active Aging walking club started up last week.

“I think it will be well-received and will create activities for seniors that they’re interested in participating in,” she said. “It helps to decrease isolation for seniors as well, encouraging them to participate in activities with their peers.”

Ultimately, she said, programs like this will make lives for seniors more manageable in the future instead of having them in institutions. When faced with that predicament in society, she said increasing funding for seniors is the easy decision.

“In my opinion, that’s a no-brainer.”

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