Mar 18, 2019
In Canada there are over five million folks we call seniors; those over the age of 65. For the first time, seniors actually outnumber children in Canada. While we obviously focus on caring for kids, it may come as a surprise for some that the older generation also needs our help.
“About 70% of our clients are women. Many have no family here, or they may have families that just don’t support them,” explains Annastasia Sommer-Stevens, Seniors Social Supports Manager at Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, “Most of the time there are folks who don’t have a support network of friends, neighbours or family—for many reasons.”
That’s why Calgary Co-op has partnered with the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society on its Shopping Companion program.
"Seniors are valued members of our community and we recognize that providing those who need additional support the opportunity to shop and connect with others is beneficial," says Penney McTaggart Cowan, Vice President of Marketing and Member Experiences at Calgary Co-op.
Social isolation is one of the biggest issues facing seniors, and it can have far-reaching effects.
"When seniors are socially isolated, their risk of all kinds of things increases exponentially, says Sommer-Stevens, "They’re at much higher risk of depression, illness, injury or even abuse or fraud.”
Calgary Co-op has provided much needed funding to organize the Shopping Companion program, to screen and train volunteers. To date the program has helped link 150 seniors with volunteers. Not surprisingly, Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society has a waiting list, but shockingly it’s longer than the list of those being helped.
“We desperately need volunteers,” notes Sommer-Stevens, “We have so many more seniors that we want to help. The support from Co-op has been amazing, but we also need more people.”
While the Shopping Companion outings are vital for the seniors, these relationships also become special for the volunteers.
“We’ve heard stories that these friendships have changed the lives for our volunteers. I know of one young woman who was volunteering while in university. She was depressed and feeling really negative about life. She told us that spending time with her senior changed her perspective. The senior was so upbeat and positive she gave her a new outlook on her life. She’s actually training to work in health care now so she can help others.”
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Shopping Companion program at Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, you can reach them through their website.
Written by Chef Chabot
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