Kamloops seniors wanting to remain in their homes can begin taking advantage of Better at Home, a basket of home-care services announced on Friday.
After months of planning and anticipation, the program had an enthusiastic public launch at Desert Gardens Community Centre.
"They can call right away," said Suzan Goguen, executive director of SOS. "We've got a list going and we're ready to roll."
A network of community agencies, businesses and volunteers has come together to make Kamloops one of the first communities in B.C. with seniors' home care, said Ann McCarthy, program co-ordinator with the Seniors Outreach Society. Better at Home is designed to allow seniors to delay and possibly avoid going into residential care or chronic care.
Trained and certified volunteers will be providing non-medical services, including snow shoveling, grocery shopping, transportation, yard work and housekeeping.
"Some of these services Seniors Outreach Society has been doing for quite some time, some are new and some we'll be rolling out in the next few weeks," McCarthy said.
She acknowledged a lengthy list of partners, a testament to community collaboration to bring the program into operation. The community initiative is part of the Seniors Action Plan, which responds to the needs of seniors and an aging population.
Goguen said seniors who receive housekeeping, yard work and home repair services may be charged a fee, but it will be based on affordability determined by income.
The program is funded by the Ministry of Health, administered by United Way and delivered by the society, which blazed a path as it oversaw the volunteer-based Snow Angels program over the past two years.
"They've been a great help to me," said Betty Beamish, a senior who has relied on Snow Angels since the loss of her husband. "I'm hoping this will be something to help seniors and enable them to stay in their homes longer. I've been trying to get help for all the seniors in my area."
The ability to get help with routine household maintenance is a senior's biggest worry, she added.
Charlie Bruce, a volunteer, said there is give and take in the relationship with seniors.
"As a Snow Angel, it certainly brought a lot of warmth to my heart," he said. "It gave me an opportunity to feel good in helping them."
In addition to the more obvious non-medical home supports, the program offers to enrich seniors' lives with friendly visits, McCarthy said.
"One thing we know is that isolation and loneliness are not just social issues," she said. "They can become physical health issues. It will be friendly visits with a focus."
She listed a set of program adjuncts that will bring books, art, music and even electronics assistance into seniors' homes. They are still looking for art and electronics volunteers.
"If you know some really smart young people who want to help seniors with their remote controls, send them our way," she said.
MLA Terry Lake called it a fantastic program, while Mayor Peter Milobar said it will help neighbourhoods preserve their multi-generational appeal.
"It's really important, I think, for everybody to feel like it's a broad community in Kamloops," Milobar said.
A local advisory committee guiding the program includes representatives from Interior Health, TRU Nursing, the City of Kamloops, Interior Indian Friendship Society and the B.C. Association of Community Response Networks.
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Betty Beamish has high hopes for the Better at Home program. Click below to hear what she told us: