NORTH PERTH – Council agreed on May 17 to continue the Lonely No More program for an additional year beyond the six-month pilot program which ends in June.
The program consists of weekly teleconference calls – Elder Circles, between isolated seniors, facilitated by trained community members. What makes the program unique and desirable in rural communities is its three-prong approach to combating social isolation through peer support, health coaching and system navigation.
Before participation, volunteer community members are educated in the Lonely No More outreach model, elder abuse bystander engagement, resource navigation and health coaching dialogues. This education enables program volunteers to look for red flags that may indicate elder abuse or the need for system navigation support. Once a red flag has been identified, volunteers conduct one-on-one follow-up conversations with individuals outside the weekly call.
The program also provides rural seniors with a chance to take leadership positions within their community.
Last December, council made a resolution recommending staff resources be used to participate in and implement a six-month pilot program for North Perth.
In January, municipal staff began collaborating with Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health to implement the pilot program. Because the first North Perth Elder Circle did not begin until May, it is too early to tell the full impact the Lonely No More program will have on the community, but preliminary findings from the community impact summary indicate it is a beneficial program to offer.
Information collected during the pilot program revealed there is an opportunity for the municipality to offer the program for Huron and Perth counties. The primary focus is for North Perth residents, however, any interest from other Perth County residents would be welcomed.
This program is also an opportunity to discover senior interests and help direct focus to offer additional community programming options to meet their needs.
Coun. Lee Anne Andreissen asked if the program could be expanded to reach a wider audience.
“If so, would the cost rise or would the cost be the same if we were potentially able to have it a little bit more far-reaching for more residents?” she asked.
“If I had a crystal ball I’d love to be able to give you those exact answers there,” said Amy Gangl, manager of programs. “However, I will let you know we have been having those conversations with Gateway and for us to continue to learn about this program and have those flexibilities can allow us to possibly expand it to other individuals.”
She noted that the Lonely No More program is for rural residents with an emphasis on the older population.
“I think there will be some evolutions with that,” said Gangl. “If we’re asking for more elder circles there may be additional costs to that. We’ve been speaking with Gateway about us paying for half of it at this point then we can re-evaluate at the end. There’s some cost that we may not use during this and those costs may be reflective and have flexibility in January.”
She suggested discussions of adding a circle or expanding to a different group could be had in January.
Coun. Terry Seiler echoed Andriessen’s idea and suggested opening the project up to Riverview Park Residence and Perth Meadows residents and individuals involved in municipally-run seniors programs.
“We’ve been reaching out to them and keep ongoing communications with the North Perth seniors coordinator,” said Gangl. “They have shared a lot of our information with their members. They’ve also shared it on their social media platforms, they’ve been making announcements and sharing emails where they possibly can and we have been working with Riverview. They have assisted with sharing flyers and offering to do some fundraising for us to encourage these programs… Any senior organization we have on our list we’ve been reaching out, we’ve been communicating with them.”
North Perth agreed to enter into a partnership agreement with Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health to provide ongoing support and services of the Lonely No More program from June 1 to May 31, 2022, for $22,850 + HST.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner