One of the fall-outs of the Campbell River Women’s Resource Society ceasing operations early in 2019 was the loss of Campbell River’s Senior Peer Support program, which was a valuable resource for many seniors in our community.
While the North Island Transition Society has taken over administration of the Women’s Centre to keep that particular function previously provided by the Women’s Resource Society open, the Transitions Society’s mandate is to provide resources and programs for women and children, but the Senior Peer Support program supports men, as well, so the Senior Peer Support program folded.
But not for long.
“They were looking throughout the community to see who could take this on, and because it’s basically a volunteer program with a coordinator who gets a little bit of money to do their work, it made sense for it to come here, and we were more than willing to do that,” says Mary Catherine Williams, executive director of Volunteer Campbell River.
The program fulfills a few needs that many might not even recognize. In fact, even those who will likely end up using it probably didn’t realize they’d need it eventually.
“There’s a real need that seniors have for information and support,” Williams says. “They are sometimes isolated. As their lives change, the people around them sometimes change, as well, and their needs obviously change, including their need for information, because they are experiencing new situations in their lives they’ve never experienced before.”
That information might be as straightforward as “how do I apply for my pension” or “how do I access the HandiDart system,” Williams says, but it could also be more complicated, such as filing income taxes or looking into housing options.
“There are many different needs that arise as people age,” Williams says. “They’ve probably never needed a walker before, for example, so they’ve likely never looked into where they could get one. Our volunteers not only have access to all the information about where people can go for things, but they can also help them get there,” Williams says. “Maybe they don’t feel comfortable going alone. Well, the volunteer can go with them.”
Possibly even more important than access to information and resources, however, is the human interaction element the program provides.
“The other part that is so important is just the sense of connection,” Williams says. “For an isolated senior who maybe has experienced significant life changes – their spouse has passed away, their children are busy with their lives, their friends are dying, their health is maybe deteriorating and they can’t get out as often – to be able to spend some time with someone who knows what you”re going through and has been trained to be an effective listener and social support person who can also give these seniors sort of a route back into society is a really amazing thing to be able to offer.”
Volunteers don’t need to have any specific or special skills in order to get involved, Williams says. As long as you’re over 55 years of age – it’s a “peer” support program, after all – you can help out.
“We want people from all walks of life with all kinds of backgrounds and skills,” Williams says. “It’s really just about having an interest in supporting another person and helping make someone’s life a little bit better.”
But because the program has been shut down since January, they need the community’s help to get it back up and running.
“We’re working hard to get the volunteers back and get the people registered for it who need it,” Williams says. “There’s really no other place where this information or this support and listening ear – a human who is happy to listen to you – is available. It’s a unique program in our community and it really helps improve the lives of seniors who access it.”
Anyone interested in volunteering are invited to call program coordinator Jean Drosse at 250-287-1442 for more information or Email firstname.lastname@example.org