As the seriousness of COVID-19 was becoming rapidly apparent, Archway Community Services saw an opportunity to act. With a longstanding history of supporting our community in times of crisis, existing resources in the Seniors Department were quickly deployed to provide new supports for seniors, an especially high-risk group.
Within days, discussion led to a newly created program called the Archway Mobile Seniors Outreach. When it was announced on Facebook on March 16th there were over 100 shares which reached almost 10,000 people. The phone calls started coming in almost immediately and haven’t stopped.
The Mobile Seniors Outreach program supports Abbotsford seniors in staying safe and healthy during this time. It ensures that seniors choosing to self-isolate have access to the things that they need. This includes volunteers delivering groceries or essentials and assisting with setting up online services including banking, pharmacy, grocery shopping and communication apps. It also provides daily wellness checks, friendly virtual visits and resources to other community supports including Archway programs such as the Archway Food Bank.
Safe Seniors, Strong Communities
On March 26th, the Government of BC announced $50 million in funding to United Way of the Lower Mainland to bolster seniors’ supports. The funding enabled United Way to create the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities program through BC211, their existing referral service. Archway was chosen as one of the 24 hub sites in BC and now oversees this service from Langley to Lytton.
Working in conjunction with Mobile Seniors Outreach, staff and volunteers are doing daily virtual wellness check ins, delivering essentials – such as groceries or meals to seniors, and assisting with supports – such as refilling prescriptions and making online connections to friends and family. By doing their best to ensure the same staff or volunteers remain connected to repeat callers, meaningful relationships can be built between seniors and those providing the services.
“It’s amazing what a phone call can do,” shared Karen Kenny, the supervisor of Archway Better at Home. “There’s a sense of relief and connectedness you can hear through the phone.”
Even before COVID, studies showed that roughly one in five Canadians experience some degree of loneliness or social isolation which can instigate or amplify adverse health issues.
“Seniors are at especially high risk as they may have lost their life-partner, be disconnected from their social circle or children, and may be questioning their role in society,” said Megan Capp, the Manager of Social Justice, Seniors, and Housing at Archway.
“COVID has only amplified the loneliness facing seniors which, along with fixed pensions and other multiple barriers, can lead to seniors feeling trapped. This exciting new initiative allows us to continue fostering healthy and positive aging in our community, and across the province.”
Other Archway Seniors Services
Archway has long provided services to seniors, such as Meals on Wheels which began in 1972, a weekly Lunch with the Bunch program, income tax assistance since the 1970s and has been the Abbotsford Better at Home provider through United Way since 2013.
Housekeeping services through Better at Home are temporarily suspended to reduce in-person contact, as are the Lunch with the Bunch, Medical Transportation and Income Tax Assistance programs. As soon as it is safe to do so, these programs will be gradually reopened as the supportive impact they have in senior’s lives is greatly recognized.
Archway Meals on Wheels has seen a 40% increase in orders and has adapted services to provide contact-less delivery. As many of the volunteers are themselves considered vulnerable to COVID, protocols were adopted to ensure both volunteers and clients remain safe.
If needed, the cost of the meals is covered through Archway Food Bank donations. For seniors who can prepare their own food but have limited transportation, the Archway Food Bank offers a Senior Delivery service to ensure no one is left hungry.
“COVID has exposed and magnified existing gaps in services for vulnerable groups,” said Capp. “It’s been inspiring to witness the strong positive results we see from government and community coming together to help our seniors. While COVID has modified the way we provide services, we as an organization remain committed to ‘justice, opportunity and equitable access for all.’ We are thankful daily that government has dedicated funding to this important area and remain grateful to all of our dedicated volunteers who make these programs possible.“
“While COVID has modified the way we provide services, we as an organization remain committed to ‘justice, opportunity and equitable access for all.’ We are thankful daily that government has dedicated funding to this important area and remain grateful to all of our dedicated volunteers who make these programs possible.“