For the past 24 years, Seniors Outreach has worked to improve the lives of older adults in Kelowna by providing support and connecting them to needed services. Seniors Outreach connects with isolated and aging seniors so they can maintain their dignity and independence. The Seniors Outreach team provides information on a wide variety of resources and services available to seniors, including but not limited to: housing, finances, social and recreational activities, health, security and legal issues. Thea Wood is the Volunteer Coordinator at Seniors Outreach and she shared some of the highlights of how volunteers are making a difference in the lives of seniors and also their new program where the community can contribute meaningfully to the health and to the well-being of seniors.
“Our programming is designed to meet the immediate needs of seniors and given the cost of living in Kelowna, housing and food security are at the forefront,” says Thea. “We partner with local community organizations to support the food security program. With increased demand due to COVID, rising cost of living and natural disasters, and with so many older people living on very limited incomes, food needs have increased dramatically. exponential for our organization.
This increased need has led Seniors Outreach to launch a new program: “Sponsor a Senior”.
“For $50.00 a month, donors can gift a senior with weekly meals delivered to their door with a personal touch, including birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas gifts and a personalized card,” explains Thea. “If you prefer to remain anonymous, the Seniors Outreach team will ensure that your eldest receives your meals and gifts. If you want to get more involved, you can volunteer and correspond with your senior in any capacity you feel comfortable with.
“Volunteering with seniors gives volunteering meaning and is so rewarding,” adds Thea. “Seniors are mostly grateful for any support and appreciate the social connection that a volunteer can provide. Our programs could not function without the support, hard work and commitment of our volunteers.
Thea likes that there is a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers. “We have volunteers who have been with us for years and others who are with us for the short term. We are flexible and do not need a volunteer to work specific hours. We ask them to help when they can. We have virtual and in-person opportunities, including hosting online social groups, delivering food and medicine, friendly visits (conducted both by phone and in person), security calls, people everything (simple home or yard repairs), tax preparers and of course, our board members.
Currently, Thea engages around 75 volunteers, who occasionally help each week. Last year, volunteers contributed 2,678 hours.
“The pandemic has been very difficult because a lot of what we do involves connecting with older people,” continues Thea. “We have adapted the programs to ensure everyone’s safety and it is difficult to find the right words to describe how much individual and collective acts of kindness mean to us.
Thea has seen firsthand the positive impact of volunteers, including better social connection and possibly saving an elderly person’s life as well.
“Last year a volunteer was making deliveries to an elderly person and when he did not show up at the door, the volunteer investigated and discovered that the elderly person had fallen and needed help to get up. says Thea. “Another volunteer was from Germany and I put her in touch with an elderly German who missed being able to speak to someone in her mother tongue. This game is a huge success. They visit each other regularly and talk on the phone almost every day! It also brought them both into contact with three other senior citizens who are also German and they are all connecting with each other now! It brought so much joy to everyone!
Dorothee Birker is Communications and Development Coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothée at [email protected].