Salmo seniors keep our community thriving, says Diana Lockwood.
“Whether it is with volunteer work, educating younger generations or having knowledge on how our town has been developed (history),” explained Lockwood, a Salmo councillor who leads the village’s senior portfolio. “Our community has a large number of seniors and like many small communities we depend on (them) to be involved in keeping our community going.”
Just in time for Christmas, the village received word that a $20,000 grant was on its way for age-friendly community planning projects this year.
While the money sweetens the pot for engagement initiatives, like an in-depth community survey followed by a seniors roundtable forum, Lockwood points out the harsh reality behind the grant application.
“Our village has gone through a devastating event of elder abuse this past summer,” she said. “And this event left an empty pit in everyone’s stomach.”
In September, an elderly victim was forced to go to the bank and withdraw a large amount of money after she was restrained and assaulted over a two-day period.
The age-friendly contribution can help heal the community by broadening awareness about crimes against seniors.
“This grant will give us an opportunity to learn from what happened,” said Lockwood. “And what we can do in our community in the future to prevent this type of event from happening again.”
Through direct participation with Salmo seniors, the goal is to reduce elder abuse through public awareness and education, such as training for improved response to suspected and identified cases of elder abuse.
The first planned action is to gather insight from Salmo’s aging populace. Lockwood said past surveys have not been well received by the seniors, so this time, a face-to-face approach will be used.
“We will have a social gathering with some goodies and share stories,” she added. “We will set up different locations and actually sit down with seniors to make sure they understand the questions, help anyone that may have problems with sight or just (help with) writing their answers down.”
Another age-friendly objective is to assess senior support networks then ensure existing services are known to the community as a whole.
Lockwood is employed in the medical profession and understands first hand how overwhelming finding resources for seniors can be.
Discussions at the round table will include a review of support services already available in the village.
“There are some of the same programs available to every senior across B.C. but where do you find them and how do you access them,” Lockwood questions.
Costly health services like Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, respite, or programs to prevent caregiver burnout, aren’t available in a town the size of Salmo.
But age-friendly recommendations, which will involve a working group of Salmo seniors, can help the elderly maintain health and safety on a day-to-day basis.
“We do not have a resource person in Salmo that can sit down with a senior and help them find a program, fill out the forms and send them to the right place,” Lockwood explained.
“Sometimes I hear from seniors that they just need someone to help with their laundry or shoveling the driveway,” she said. “Simple things like this can keep someone safe from falling and out of the hospital.”
Another age-friendly initiative is to launch a sidewalk safety project.
Installing benches, increasing lighting on well-used walkways, and collaborating with the village to ensure sidewalk safety, are examples of suggested action.
“We have a large number of people that walk in our village due to the flat ground,” Lockwood said. “And they may use an aid to help them, whether it be a cane, walker, wheelchair or scooter.
“Activity is important and keeping safety a high priority will benefit everyone.”
The age-friendly community planning and project grant program is a partnership between the province and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
Communities were encouraged to focus on accessibility, elder abuse prevention, dementia and non-medical home support projects for the 2016 grant cycle.
“We will all have to step up to the plate as times are going to change with all the baby boomers coming into the senior’s world, we need to make sure we have things available to keep them active, healthy and involved.”
Support for Salmo’s initiative came from Isobel McKenzie, B.C.’s senior advocate, when she was travelling through the Kootenays in September.
“She spoke on the housing, transportation, services, incomes and caregiver burnout; all the issues we need to be aware of in Salmo,” Lockwood added.
“Our first action will be to hear from the seniors.”