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Cold weather isolates seniors

Cold weather isolates seniors

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The temperature has been low enough for long enough that a thin covering of ice could be seen on the salt water in Gibsons Harbour Jan.7. The cold weather is tough on some seniors. Donna McMahon photo

With the BC coast experiencing the coldest winter in 30 years, some seniors on the Sunshine Coast have been stranded in their homes. Michelle Bruecker, manager of the Better at Home Program for seniors, said that this has been a big challenge, especially in the Gibsons area.

“Snow is definitely impacting the ones who are already isolated because now they’re really cut off,” said Bruecker.

Better at Home, which is operated by the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society and funded by the United Way, supports seniors to stay in their homes by offering transportation, companionship and housekeeping.

“We have clients who are unable to get out because it’s too slippery and they’re unsteady on their feet so they’re just shut in right now,” said Bruecker. Making matters worse, some of the program’s volunteer drivers don’t have winterized vehicles and can’t navigate treacherous roads or steep, snow-covered driveways.

The program is looking for additional volunteers, especially drivers, as they have a waitlist of clients who need transportation to the grocery store and medical appointments. Help is also needed with snow shovelling, something that the program didn’t previously offer, since the last few winters were so mild.

Bruecker had one individual on the waitlist in Gibsons who wasn’t able to get out for over a month, and was running short on food.

“In urgent situations like this, I send out a call to our entire team. We got her the help she needed, but she is still waiting to be matched with a dedicated volunteer”, Bruecker said.

In 2016 the Better at Home program served over 150 clients, with the majority located in Sechelt, Gibsons and Pender Harbour.

Many of the program’s clients are especially isolated because they don’t use computers. To address that, Bruecker has started offering “tech tutoring” to help seniors get on the internet to use email and Skype.

Bruecker said this program was initially met with skepticism. “I was told no, these seniors don’t want to get on the internet, but there has been a good uptake,” she said.

To volunteer for Better at Home or request assistance, call (604) 865-0114 or email betterathome@sccss.ca.

Donna McMahon

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