Whitewater Region – A pilot program for Whitewater Region seniors will continue following the granting of six recommendations approved by council last Wednesday night.
Councillor Neil Nicholson and volunteers Bonny Johnson and Moira D’Aoust made a presentation to council on behalf of the Whitewater Senior Homes Support and Active Living Pilot after which council voted unanimously to extend the program until December 31. It also approved a $10,000 operating budget from the 2022 operating budget; agreed to hire a term employee for four months for the Seniors Centre Without Walls program; renew the Memorandum of Understanding with area seniors organizations; strike a community working group to prepare a Terms of Reference and continue to advocate for provincial funds for ongoing home and community support to rural seniors.
Coun. Nicholson explained the presentation would remind council why it established the pilot program, where the gaps are in senior support, achievements of the program, the funding and governance situation, and what is required now to continue the program.
“We are coming to you today because we want to share with you the success we’ve had to date and seek support, funding and more specifically, your advocacy to continue what we’ve started,” he said.
In the 2021 census, 23 percent of the population in Whitewater Region was 65 and older, which is about 1,600 people, he said, adding, if that number is extended to include people 55 and older, that’s an additional 1,200 residents for a total of 2,800.
“That number is projected to more than double in the next 10 years,” Coun. Nicholson said. “And we are ahead of the provincial averages by three to four percent in a rural area.”
It’s important council start preparing to address the needs of a senior population, he said.
“We need to use our age-friendly community plan to ensure we do our part to support them,” he said.
Coun. Nicholson Said it’s important to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible, and in a rural area, that is difficult.
“Trying to get a PSW out to Lacroix Bay in a snowstorm is not going to be a long-term solution,” he said. “We need to focus on supports we can offer; we need to facilitate with other agencies and advocate to higher levels of government for our residents.”
The continuum of senior care includes institutional, primary, home, home support and community support, he said. Some of the services provided include mental health, dental, nurse, rehab, respite, meals, transportation, education, transport and mobility aids, among many others, he said.
“There are seniors in our communities who need none of these five; they are completely independent, while there are others who need all five,” Coun. Nicholson said. “What we have found is that when you need one grouping, you typically need more than one.”
As an example, he said someone might need transportation or help with lawn care or getting a PSW into the home.
“They might not necessarily move from one point to another and they might need all five at the same time for different periods of time,” he said.
There are organizations and programs linked to the five types of care and they provide some sort of senior care to the Whitewater Region senior population, he said.
The pilot program is focusing on home and community support for Whitewater seniors, Coun. Nicholson said.
“We are the liaison between organizations and making referrals based on needs,” he said. “That’s how we fit into the continuum.”
There are many organizations the seniors’ pilot is dealing with and there are many volunteer positions needed to continue the work, he said.
The seniors’ pilot has a vision, mission and main effort, he noted, with the focus remaining on working to reduce COVID social isolation and create social connection opportunities.
“We want to grow registration numbers so we can help identify the most vulnerable and work to address their needs,” Coun. Nicholson said.
The pilot program has been successful in getting $66,000 in grants; establishing an MoU with some partners, building a storefront and hiring a part-time employee.
Ms. Johnson said incredible things have happened beyond their expectations since starting the pilot program.
“We realized we had underestimated the need that was out there,” she said. “What we want to do is to try to provide something in place to make sure people in Whitewater Region have (many years) to live in a healthy way.”
She provided numbers for council’s perusal, including 854 frozen meals to 54 clients; over 600 volunteer hours logged; 340 fresh-group meals provided; 201 registered clients; 150 participants with the Seniors Centre Without Walls program and 18 programs offered with 11 more planned for the summer.
“The demand has exceeded our limited capacity for transportation, yard and house cleaning, friendly visiting and support to caregivers,” Ms. Johnson said.
Most recently, a new partnership with the Eganville Seniors Needs Asasociation has began serving curbside dinners through meals on wheels.
“That’s a hot meal delivered twice a week,” she said.
While Eganville can provide service to Cobden, it’s not feasible to provide meals on wheels to outlying areas of the township, but with volunteers from the township, those meals can be delivered, she said.
Ms. D’Aoust said there has been significant opportunities for seniors to connect throughout Whitewater Region.
“We’re really proud of that. Our plan of attack was to create something that would bring seniors together, then from there, building connections and helping to support their need,” she said.
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader