Volunteer peer support, assistance with household tasks after surgery, and simple companionship are among the services offered by Victoria-based Seniors Serving Seniors. Photo contributed

Lending vulnerable seniors a helping hand in Greater Victoria

Long-established organization connected to numerous services and support agencies

For over 37 years, Seniors Serving Seniors has been providing valuable services for vulnerable elders in Greater Victoria, but not everyone is familiar with their offerings.

Those in the local health care industry are, however, and work quite closely with this mostly volunteer-based organization through its Return to Health program.

The service sees volunteers assigned to patients who have had medical procedures done in hospital and have been identified by medical staff as “vulnerable.”

For a period of one to three months after the individual returns home – the time varies depending on the individual’s needs and vulnerability – a volunteer senior is matched up with them to help with a variety of tasks. Those range from basic companionship, going for walks and ensuring there are groceries in the house, to getting them set up for the Sendial or HandiDart programs, going through mail that has accumulated, and other non-medical functions.

“The goal is to support these people back to independence,” says Julie Gray, Seniors Serving Seniors’ executive director. “It’s an important goal to ensure they don’t relapse and end up back in hospital. The hope is that they get [familiar with] a community centre … and hopefully regain some of their self worth and their dignity through the connections that our volunteers help them make.”

The organization is currently recruiting volunteer seniors to do this work, starting in the fall.

“Our volunteers report tremendous satisfaction in knowing they’re assisted someone who was vulnerable, that they learned new skills on a number of topics, or that they developed more confidence,” Gray says.

Other functions it serves direct the region’s seniors to local programs and activities.

Its Senior Link phone line sees volunteers direct seniors, their family members or concerned friends to the appropriate community agencies and businesses that answer questions or provide services. Seniors Serving Seniors volunteers field roughly 1,700 calls a year on the line.

“It could be serious stuff, like, my neighbour is being neglected and I’m wondering who to call about this,” Gray says. “We’re a resource of information; not that we resolve the issue, but we direct people to the right place. We assist seniors and their families to find the information and support they need.”

Seniors Serving Seniors also generates a comprehensive directory featuring a diverse list of more than 500 community resources available to people. They range from health-related services to activity and recreation centres and day programs offered around Greater Victoria, complete with phone numbers and website addresses.

A total of 25,000 hard copies of the directory are produced every two years and they are available for pickup at 20 different sites around the region (call 250-382-4331 for locations), as well as online at seniorsservingseniors.bc.ca/service-directory/.

For more information about volunteering for Return to Health or the availability of services, call the office at 250-382-4331, or visit them online at seniorsservingseniors.bc.ca.

editor@vicnews.com

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