The Archway Senior Services team
In the heart of Abbotsford, the Better at Home program has been quietly supporting and empowering independence for seniors over the past decade.
Archway’s Better at Home program helps seniors remain in their own homes by providing home-support services at a reduced cost. Friendly visits, transportation, light yard work, minor home repairs, light housekeeping and grocery shopping are some of the services offered by program volunteers, staff, and contractors.
The cost of the service is based on a sliding scale which is determined by the income level of each senior in the program, making services accessible for low-income seniors.
Better at Home services have been available to Abbotsford seniors since 2013, when Archway was awarded the Better at Home contract in Abbotsford.
Abbotsford was one of the first 18 sites selected for the Better at Home program which is now available in 260 communities across BC. The funding comes from the BC Ministry of Health and is administered by United Way British Columbia.
Karen Kenny has been the program coordinator since inception and has been working in the Archway Senior Services department for 24 years.
“The demand for services has been steadily increasing as the population ages and as the cost of living continues to go up,” reflected Karen.
To serve as many seniors as possible, each household can access cleaning and yardwork services once a month at their subsidized rate. Seniors can request additional hours, but would need to pay the full rate, which many of them cannot afford.
“I feel like I am standing on my own two feet for the first time in my life because of Better at Home; I can make my own decisions about stuff and I can always ask for help.”
“There’s not a whole lot that somebody can do in two hours a month, but everything that they do is something I don’t have to do, so I just appreciate everything that they do,” said Yvonne, a Better at Home client since 2016.
At 76 years old, Yvonne can live independently in her home with the support of Better at Home. A friend recommended the program when she was going through a difficult time when her husband of 43 years passed away.
“My husband had Alzheimer’s, so it was a full-time job taking care of him. I was in a pretty difficult spot, to be quite honest,” said Yvonne.
Yvonne cannot say enough good things about the program.
“The staff are all absolutely wonderful. I feel so safe and they’re so friendly and just an absolute pleasure. It’s nice getting to know them too, I know about their children and I enjoy striking up conversations with them; they’re just very caring.”
The Better at Home program also has a team of hardworking volunteers that graciously contributed over 426 hours in 2022; these volunteers help pick up and deliver groceries and provide rides to and from appointments.
“The volunteers help fill in the gaps and are so dedicated to making sure no one is aging on their own,” said Karen.
Yvonne with her father’s violin that has been in her family for over 70 years
Ruth was referred to Better at Home by a friend in 2017 after she had recently lost her husband. Her husband had dementia which made it difficult to care for him. He lived in a nursing home for 14 months before he passed away which incurred significant costs.
“I was left with a sizeable mortgage after my husband died, so I had to downsize to a condo from a townhome,” shared Ruth.
Now at the age of 86, Ruth is grateful for the light housekeeping which helps her to live independently. Ruth uses a walking cane and has arthritis which makes keeping her condo clean a challenge.
“I feel like I should do more, but when you’re in pain all the time it’s not that easy, so it’s very nice to have help. I get a reduced rate on the cleaning fees and she does an awesome job,” exclaimed Ruth.
Emerging as a more confident and independent woman, Ruth ecstatically shared how Better at Home has changed her life.
“I feel like I am standing on my own two feet for the first time in my life because of Better at Home; I can make my own decisions about stuff and I can always ask for help,” said Ruth.
Ruth, Better at Home client in her home
Staff Support for Seniors
In addition to direct services, Karen connects seniors with other programs within Archway and in the community.
“If we notice that a senior is socially isolated, we’ll encourage them to attend the weekly Lunch with the Bunch gathering. We can also arrange for Food Bank hamper deliveries, Meals on Wheels or transportation through our Community Van,” said Karen.
Seniors also receive resources like heat preparation information, invites to local events and Valentine’s cards from local schools.
“Many of our clients aren’t very connected to technology so mailing them resources and checking in over the phone helps them stay connected to their community,” said Karen.
Karen builds relationships with her clients and if the housekeepers notice any concerns they let her know so she can check in with the senior.
Clients’ adult children often relay how relieved they are to know that their parents are getting the help they need to live a dignified life in their own homes.
Better at Home has supported more than 900 seniors with accessible, affordable and quality services since 2013.
“Over the years, the services offered have remained the same, but some services were modified during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet health and safety regulations,” reflected Karen.
Better at Home replaced house visits with telephone check-ins and adapted services to be delivered online where possible.
COVID and the recent transit strike further isolated seniors, especially those with less family support and financial resources.
“To understand how vulnerable our seniors are, I’m seeing more and more seniors in our program that are 70% to 100% subsidized which speaks to their limited income,” said Karen.
With 170 seniors currently enrolled in the program, about three quarters of these seniors get at least 70% of their costs subsidized.
Karen and the Senior Services team are advocating for more funding to increase the service hours available as current funding only allows for a two-hour shift a month for each service.
“We know that if seniors could get one more shift subsidized, they would take it. By the time we return to someone’s place four weeks later, the condition may be above and beyond light housekeeping, especially if the senior is unable to maintain household cleaning due to physical limitations,” said Karen.
While there is always more that can be done, Karen is grateful to play a part in supporting seniors in living independently.
“Our goal is to foster healthy and positive aging and being able to remain in their own home is often the best-case scenario for senior’s mental and physical health.”
The program is made possible through funding administered by United Way British Columbia