Program helps seniors to do ‘Better at Home’

The Better at Home program helps to fill in the gaps and to work with service providers for seniors who wish to remain in their own homes

Many North Okanagan seniors first moved to the area when their children were young. Now, some of them may find that they need a little extra help in order to remain in the family home.

Thanks to Better at Home, they can. Introduced in 68 B.C. communities, the program is designed to help seniors with day-to-day tasks to help them live independently and remain connected to the community. Services are provided by local non-profit organizations, which are selected through a community engagement process.

“The goal is to help seniors live in their own homes longer and better with non-medical services,” said Sue Rossi, who is facilitating community development of the Better at Home program through the United Way. “My role is to listen to local seniors, and people who work with seniors, for our community and its outlying areas.

“It’s been really well received, and people are pleased to know that the services are based on a sliding fee scale, according to a senior’s ability to pay.”

Rossi has facilitated several presentations and focus groups for the program to get an idea of what seniors need, with the local program set to start early in 2014.

“Some seniors moved here with their families, and bought large family homes that they have been in for 50 years, with laundry downstairs,” she said. “I had one gentleman at the meeting who said we need to encourage  younger seniors to downsize when they still can.”

With funding from the provincial Health Services Authority, Better at Home services can include friendly visits, light yard work, minor home repair, snow shoveling, light housekeeping and grocery shopping.

When Rossi has completed the community engagement process, the United Way will hire a Better at Home coordinator, who will act as a central contact for seniors to call.

“That’s a really important point because that’s been a big issue for seniors — who can I trust? They have come from a generation where a handshake meant everything; we’re a little more fearful to let people into our homes, to be wary of people we don’t know, so to have someone to contact for the services they need is key.”

Better at Home services are designed to complement existing community supports, including those offered by regional health authorities.

“In speaking with seniors, a number of issues have come up, such as transportation,” said Rossi. “There are gaps in service — we do have buses and taxis; we have the volunteer driver program through the Seniors Information & Resource Bureau, but even with all those options, there still seems to be, ‘I need someone to come into the house, to get me to the car, to get groceries,’ and all the other pieces that connect to that.

“We are trying to make it accessible for everybody, to fill in the gaps and to work with service providers.”

Rossi said much of what seniors need is help with day-to-day chores. In speaking to senior women recently, she said some of them have noticed that they are no longer able to bend down to clean the bottom cupboards in their kitchen.

“So it’s any of those physical things; if the hearing starts to go they tend not to go out as much and that can lead to depression and isolation,” she said. “So it might even be a senior needs someone to come over and be their social connection to the world and be able to take them out to places where they feel they are not comfortable on their own.”

Rossi will hold a community presentation on Friday at Schubert Centre from 10 a.m. to noon. It will give people a chance to learn about the program, to offer input, and to find out about volunteer opportunities.

“The more volunteers who want to engage themselves in the program, the further the services will go, and we’d also love to hear from anyone interested in being part of an advisory committee, if they feel they have a certain perspective to help guide the project.”

For more information, contact Rossi at 250-549-4534 or