Volunteers Enabling Seniors to Live at Home: Home for Life, South Georgian Bay

Rationale / Objectives

The aging population often faces issues of isolation and loneliness when they enter Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities. Additionally, such admissions are often precipitated by lack of access to non-healthcare-related services, and can place additional pressures on the healthcare system. Those seniors living at home who are at risk of LTC placement may suffer from poor nutrition and experience challenges in managing their health conditions, which can create unplanned hospitalizations. The South Georgian Bay area has a large retirement community. With little to no funding at their disposal, the six organizations involved wanted to assist seniors living at home to connect to needed services and resources thereby supporting them to age in place and relieve pressures on LTC facilities in the area.1,2

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

In the spirit of “Back to the Village”, which promotes a focus on community involvement and compassion in solving social problems, the organizations implemented two volunteer-driven initiatives. The Home for Life Program has since been recognized as an Emerging (Commendable) Practice by the Health Council of Canada. The program’s proactive assistance contributed to seniors’ maintenance of health, improved physical and mental functioning, and reduced reliance on healthcare workers to meet their social needs. Savings were anticipated at about $1 million per year.2

Lessons Learned

As waiting lists for free services are usually long, it is preferable to reach out to volunteers who are willing and able to carry out these services directly. Volunteer turnover and variable availability necessitates retaining staff for their support and training. Seniors were themselves often volunteers, which positively impacted their activity levels and community engagement.2

Further Description

The Georgian Bay Family Health Team, Collingwood General & Marine Hospital, the North Simcoe Muskoka Community Care Access Centre, South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre, Community Connection Central East Ontario, and the County of Simcoe’s Sunset Manor Long-Term Care facility collaborated to launch the Home for Life Program in 2011. The two initiatives implemented were the Buddies for Seniors Program, and the Technology Training Program. Buddies for Seniors connected seniors with local healthcare services, as well as transportation, home maintenance (home safety assessments, yard work etc.) and provided socialization opportunities. When a senior called the program at 211, a Home for Life buddy set a date to visit the senior’s home to confidentially assess and address the challenges. Volunteers also assisted with chores if needed, and could make social calls. Technology Training was funded by the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network for the period from December 2012 to 2013. A program manager, volunteer coordinator and part-time administrative assistant were hired. This program taught isolated seniors how to use computers, Skype, email and other technologies as a means of keeping in touch with their family and social or support networks.1 2

Major Achievements

Savings were anticipated at about $1 million per year and a formal evaluation is pending.2