Significant Funding for Isolated Seniors Announced on UN International Day of Older Persons – October 1, 2017
VICTORIA, BC – Marking UN International Day of Older Persons on October 1, 2017, United Way Greater Victoria will announce new funding that will reach out to hundreds of isolated seniors and support a network of local social services. Identifying and engaging seniors with community programs is vital to address an epidemic of loneliness. Reaching people where they live will boost their health and well-being while maintaining their independence.
With one-fifth of seniors in Canada living alone, the incidence of low income is 29.7% (Statistics Canada, 2016) and isolation and depression is evident in many facets. Without the awareness of and access to support, seniors with limited social connections often experience a significant decline in their quality of life.
The funding will expand an existing Seniors Outreach Program piloted by two of the largest senior service agencies – James Bay New Horizons and Silver Threads Services – in the Capital Regional District (CRD). It will directly support a Seniors Outreach Worker visiting rental housing units to connect vulnerable and isolated seniors with people and existing programs in the United Way Greater Victoria network of services, including bc211. The carefully designed program now has the ability to impact more than 500 people annually in the CRD, where 18% of the population identify as seniors.
Philanthropists and de Vine Vineyards owners, John and Catherine Windsor, strongly believe helping seniors rests on the shoulders of the community. “Let’s not forget that today’s seniors are yesterday’s teachers, nurses, doctors, soldiers and business leaders. Together with their parents, they built this wonderful country,” says John and Catherine Windsor. “The least we can do is help look after them in their later years. We need to recognize that it is our duty as citizens and beneficiaries of their many years of service to do so. Looking after our seniors is a huge responsibility and a privilege.”
It’s the Windsor’s passion to honour and give back to the generations who helped build our communities that led the couple to step forward to provide leadership in giving to United Way Greater Victoria. At a public event on October 1, United Way Greater Victoria will announce their gift in excess of a quarter of a million dollars to this outreach program. It is the largest single individual gift in United Way Greater Victoria’s 80 year history.
“The vast majority of seniors want to stay independent and remain in their own homes, and we know that only 4% of seniors are in care,” said Tracy Ryan, Executive Director of Silver Threads. “That leaves the majority in the community trying to get by as they age and their needs change. We are developing ways of reaching seniors, to help them find new and existing resources to provide support to maintain their independence,” she says. “In our work with seniors who are facing isolation we start by asking what their concerns are. A significant issue is loneliness and lack of social connectedness, and having someone to talk to goes a long way in reducing anxiety and depression. If we can provide a good listener and someone who can help seniors this is a good first step.”
Kim Dixon, Executive Director at James Bay New Horizons, adds: “A realistic concern for staff working with an aging demographic, is what really happens behind closed doors? As seniors become more isolated, who is checking up on their well-being? If they have issues, where do they turn for help? This generous donation will allow us the opportunity to reach out to this forgotten community, and support them by engaging them in conversation, gaining their trust and answering their questions about how to navigate the system, where to go for help and support them so they can remain independent as long as they wish.”
The Windsor’s gift is striking in United Way Greater Victoria’s 80th anniversary year not only for its size and focus, but for its ripple effect across the United Way global movement. The funding for United Way Greater Victoria is one-third of a total gift to fund similar programs at both United Way Lower Mainland and United Way Atlanta. It is important and meaningful to the Windsor family to give back to the three communities that they have been involved in for many years.
United Way Greater Victoria President & CEO Patricia Jelinski is thrilled with what this gift means locally to meet the immediate needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens. “We can see the gaps in the community and it’s inspiring to see people step forward to take care of our valued elders,” says Jelinski. “United Way Greater Victoria’s donors enable us to invest in a network of services that provide caring connections for isolated seniors. This incredible gift will expand existing programs that are desperately needed to help our parents and neighbours and elders lead healthier lives.”
The funding to expand the Seniors Outreach Program will be announced at Berwick Royal Oak Retirement Community during United Way’s free public celebration of the UN International Day of Older Persons on October 1 from 2 pm to 3:30 pm. This gift arrived on the heels of the Windsor’s three-year pledge to support the scaling up of bc211 coverage across Vancouver Island. bc211 now offers Vancouver Island residents a confidential telephone, texting and online information and referral service to connect them to over 13,000 community, social and government listings.
John and Catherine immediately saw the essential services provided by bc211 and its partnership with United Way, and how valuable this resource is for vulnerable groups. “Seniors and their caregivers can simply dial 2-1-1 to get and stay connected to the services and information they need,” says John Windsor.
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In June 2017, United Way Greater Victoria joined nine other United Ways throughout BC to expand bc211.ca to all British Columbians. The online service directory consists of over 13,000 agency and program records related to community, social and government services. The website is also optimized for mobile devices and online chat is available seven days a week from 8am to 11pm.
On Vancouver Island, United Way Greater Victoria is proud to launch the full bc211 services now including telephone and text to all islanders. 211 is a confidential, multi-lingual, telephone, texting and online referral service providing information free of charge.
Trained and certified information and referral specialists link services such as mental health supports, shelter and housing, legal aid, addictions treatment, newcomer services, or food banks to people seeking assistance. Its operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in over 160 languages. bc211 also helps service providers instantly find resources for their clients and provides information for caregivers seeking help for their loved ones.
In 2010, United Way Lower Mainland launched the bc211 website, phone and text capabilities in Metro Vancouver. Since that time they have expanded the services to include Squamish-Lillooet, Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Valley Regional Districts. Thanks to United Way Greater Victoria all of Vancouver Island is the latest edition to offer the full suite of services to residents.
With the addition of BC, approximately 70% of Canadians now have access to 211 and United Way Centraide Canada remains committed to bringing 211 to all Canadians.
In its 2016/17 fiscal year, bc211.ca had more than 276,000 unique visitors, a 17% increase in online queries over the previous year, the majority of which focused on issues of housing and homelessness, substance abuse, and health (non-clinical). bc211 also answered over 52,000 phone calls and made over 60,000 referrals to community agencies for help.
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As the region’s largest annual funder of local social service programs outside of government, we assist charitable organizations by identifying and funding programs to address immediate needs and underlying causes of our community’s most pressing social challenges.
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