Being physically active and having social connections is known to keep older adults mobile and with an improved quality of life. Walks, outings and drives with volunteers are helping seniors to have more enjoyable and enriched lives in the later years.
Thanks to a $10,000 grant from United Way of Lower Mainland and Active Aging BC, Oak Bay Volunteer Services is focusing on services to seniors to help them increase physical activity, enable independence and enhance social connectedness through the provision of one-to-one volunteer assistance.
Volunteer Mel Edwards walks with a senior client, Elaine Jones, who she calls “a real firecracker.”
“We go out in all weather,” Edwards said. The volunteer likes listening to the stories elders have to tell and realizes how appreciative they are of the time given to them: “An hour or so seems minor to us, but it is everything to them,” she said.
During the first six months of the one -year project, sedentary lifestyle has been reduced through drives and walks. The drives with personalized assistance allow seniors to get out and get to essential medical, surgery, and therapy appointments. Drives for grocery shopping with the assistance of a volunteer encourage seniors to be in charge of their food and them there are the social connections.
Seniors have developed supportive social relationships particularly through the provision of visits and phone calls. Close relationships have evolved as visits and phone calls provide ongoing connections to be established. In many situations the volunteer becomes the closest person in a senior’s life, especially no family is here.
“It is heartwarming to see the passion and caring that occurs,” said Joan Halvorsen, executive director, Oak Bay Volunteer Services. “Through helping and supporting seniors to be more active and to build positive relationships, the community as a whole benefits broadly.”
Oak Bay has one of the highest concentrations of seniors in Canada. 27.4 per cent of the residents in Oak Bay are seniors compared with a national percentage of only 14.8. This also compares with 15.7 per cent in Greater Victoria and 13.7 per cent provincially. As seniors are living longer they are staying in their homes longer. Support by volunteers to be active helps seniors maintain their independence so they can remain at home.
Oak Bay is a retirement choice for many seniors and often family lives elsewhere. The benefits of the Oak Bay Seniors Active Aging project are highlighted by comments from senior clients.
A female senior praised her senior volunteer driver, calling Oak Bay Volunteer Services amazing. “This thing that you do is appreciated much more than you can ever know,” she said.
Another called to praise a driver who was patient and understanding of her appointment going long. A male senior emailed that his senior volunteer “has been here several times with his computer wisdom. He’s a great volunteer, very thoughtful and goes way beyond what one would expect. The computer has its challenges for some of us and it is wonderful to know there’s someone to turn to in a crisis.”
The senior volunteers also benefit, as the activities help the volunteers remain physically active.
This project with the emphasis on the one-to-one volunteer services helps seniors in Oak Bay enhance mobility and health while maintaining independence, improving quality of life and reducing social isolation. To learn more or take part call 250-595-1034.