Although not much snow has fallen (as of press time), residents of the Grande Prairie Region know the white fluffy snow will debut eventually.
Still, some seniors and will need a helping hand when that day comes, and that’s where volunteers or snow fairies are needed.
“In Snow Fairy nature, they will fly over with their magic wand and POOF away the snow,” said Seniors Outreach office manager Dee Sayles. In this case, magic wands are snow shovels, and fairies are volunteers looking out for their neighbours.
About 25 seniors in the Grande Prairie area are so far signed up for utilizing the service, and Sayles expects the number to grow once the snow arrives.
“When you're in your 20s or 30s, and you go doing the heavy labour of shovelling the snow or maybe slipping on the ice, it looks a lot different than someone who's in their 70s and 80s that falls.”
She said if some seniors try to clear their snow, it can lead to accidents, keeping them away from their homes for much longer than a young person.
This year, the program is trying a new approach to helping seniors with their snow removal. A map is available online so volunteers can clean a driveway near them to help a senior.
Volunteers, or fairies, can just show up, clean a driveway, and leave. Snow fairy signs have been placed in some homes' windows so volunteers can confirm they are at the correct address.
“We want to keep seniors in their homes longer,” said Sayles.
Helping keep seniors' walkways and driveways clear of snow is another piece of assisting them to stay in their homes, which Sayles says helps them maintain their physical and mental health.
She noted it gives many seniors a “little bit of peace of mind, knowing that someone's going to be helping them out.”
“They want to stay in their homes and feel more independent,” she said, but some with health ailments cannot clear snow.
Many seniors are on fixed incomes and cannot afford snow removal rates of about $90 by snow removal companies.
“I've had so many seniors just say, ‘this is so wonderful, it just makes such a difference for me,’” said Sayles.
In previous years, seniors' driveways were adopted, and a volunteer was assigned to one driveway for the season, but this year, the new map allows anyone willing to go and help to do so. It will also help ensure driveways are cleared if a person is away for holidays or is unavailable to clear someone else's driveway.
Helping clear seniors' driveways is also a great team-building exercise for businesses and sports groups, she said.
Seniors Outreach in Grande Prairie also offers a variety of services to seniors, including helping them with pension applications and taxes and doing income reviews to ensure seniors are receiving all the supplements available to them from the government.
The map to find seniors looking for snow fairies can be found by scanning the QR code and going to driveways with the snowflake symbol.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News