5 ways to help senior friends and family this winter
For many families, winter is a time of busy calendars, holiday celebrations and sunny getaways. For seniors, however, the exact opposite is often true. That, paired with cold temperatures, decreased mobility and limited incomes, can result in isolation that puts seniors at risk of physical, emotional and mental health concerns.
The good news is that support can be as close as bc211.ca, a BC-wide resource created in partnership with United Way that links residents to community, social and government resources on a comprehensive range of topics, from learning skills to mental health.
Health, finances among seniors’ common concerns
Seniors contacted bc211.ca for many different reasons between September 2017 and August 2018, but topping the list, outside housing and homelessness, were:
- Health – 23.1 per cent of calls
- Income & Financial Assistance – 16 per cent of calls
- Transportation – 9 per cent of calls
- Government Services – 8.7 per cent of calls
- Mental Health – 6.8 per cent of calls
- Basic Needs – 6.7 per cent of calls
The information sought reinforces the need to connect with seniors year-round, but especially at times that can be particularly isolating.
How you can help
- Make time for a visit or to take a grandparent, friend or neighbour out for lunch or a drive. If you’re not close by, a regular phone call is a great way to check in, share news, and stay connected. In an increasingly technology-driven society, seniors who are not as tech-savvy can be further isolated.
- Include them in holiday festivities, such as school performances, or call to see if you can take them to church, the library, or a favourite activity.
- When you visit, look for signs that they could be struggling – little food in the fridge, for example, or an unusually unkempt appearance or home. These can signal physical or cognitive challenges, or depression.
- Ask what they might need or want – a smartphone or tablet and a few lessons might let them “FaceTime” with the grandkids, for example. Or maybe a gift card from a favourite restaurant could deliver a hot meal when they don’t feel up to cooking.
- Look for community resources that might be able to help. bc211.ca can connect you to the full spectrum of services and organizations in your community, from transportation supports for those finding it difficult to get out, to medical and mental health services.
Optimized for mobile devices, bc211.ca connects individuals 24/7 with current, reliable information about community resources close to home, all easily accessed through the one-stop website as well as online chat daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
On Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland, residents can also phone or text 2-1-1 and connect with someone 24/7, 365 days a year. Topics are also tailored to Indigenous, immigrant and senior and youth communities, making it simple to access the information you need.