elders connect

The Network of Inner City Community Services Society worked on the Elders Connect project with a variety of key partners to identify gaps in programs and services for at-risk seniors and establish an action plan based on their findings. Their goal was to reduce barriers to access by building programs and services based on seniors’ needs.

Project Objectives:

  • The risk of abuse will decrease by increasing community connections for at-risk, vulnerable seniors, and by increasing awareness of programs and services.
  • Seniors, youth and peer leaders are trained in elder abuse awareness and promote safety awareness for seniors in the community.
  • Target populations – marginalized and vulnerable Aboriginal and newcomer seniors in Vancouver’s inner city

Key Partners:

Activities:

  • Nine organizations met monthly, and community events were held, to identify gaps in services and programs for at-risk seniors, and established an action plan based on findings.
  • Created two short videos for the Grandview-Woodlands and DTES areas focussing on seniors’ issues, the Elders Connect project and elder abuse awareness.
  • Elder abuse awareness training (“It’s Not Right”) for 12 peers, staff and community members, who will then present in the community. Also, Elder/senior peer leaders were trained and will provide elder abuse awareness training to peers.
  • Assisted seniors to sign up as members of local community centres and encouraging community centres to develop and implement senior advisory tables.

Outcomes:

  • Engaging with seniors/Elders led to programming that better fits seniors’ needs and, therefore, reduced barriers to accessing programs. Hosting Elder talking circles and distributing the BC Seniors Resource guides and Elder Abuse Prevention Kits generated a lot of discussion regarding elder abuse.  These resources have been distributed in all of the NICCSS seniors programs.
  • In partnership with the DTES and Grandview Woodlands CRNs, created two videos about elder abuse awareness. One focuses on the Elders Connect project and the other focuses on issues of Elder Abuse that seniors experience while living in the DTES.
  • Elders Connect engaged five seniors to connect with seniors living in their buildings. They act as program ambassadors by connecting with neighbours and inviting/accompanying them to community activities.  They also promote safety and provide tips about staying safe in the neighbourhood, as well as about elder abuse awareness and financial scams.

Tools and Resources:

  • Learnings from the Elders Connect project will be shared through community planning tables, workshops and online forums. Both the DTES CRN and Grandview-Woodlands CRN videos will be on the CRN and NICCSS website.

Lessons Learned:

  • By embedding elder abuse awareness into other programs and activities, the participation rate was much higher and resulted in greater follow up and responses from seniors.
  • Elders expressed the desire for culturally-appropriate programming, opportunities to share experiences and learning with young people, and fun activities to encourage social inclusion.  Some Elders preferred intergenerational programs, rather than programs specifically for seniors.
  • Seniors expressed concerns about safety and access to appropriate primary health care.
  • Working with a diverse group of organizations, individuals and seniors can be challenging.
  • Collaborative working relationships take time to develop. The NICCSS buddies program has been able to bridge that gap by introducing seniors to staff and “vouching” for the staff as being individuals they can trust.

Challenges:

  • Established a seniors’ advisory table and engaged an Aboriginal Elder to host workshops and culturally-appropriate events, but was not able to establish a “network of Aboriginal seniors”. Trained Aboriginal seniors who are engaged in the NICCSS buddy program. It was overly ambitious to have a network established but will continue to recruit more Aboriginal seniors to be building buddies, which is the beginning of a network.
  • One of the main challenges was getting buy-in from the target population. While this was a diverse group, they did not want to attend or take part in events for programs that were presented as being about elder abuse, because:
    • Marginalized seniors, especially Aboriginal Seniors are hesitant to trust or accept assistance from authority figures because they do not see them as benevolent.
    • Many seniors are disconnected from their families and do not see elder abuse as an issue.
    • Traditionally, Elders in Aboriginal communities are held in positions of esteem and respect as they are the keepers to cultural/spiritual traditions and learnings. This can hinder the disclosure of Elder Abuse as it contradicts cultural tenants and expectations.

For Sustainability:

  • Learnings from Elders Connect will be shared through community planning tables, workshops and on-line forums (Better at Home).
  • The two videos created will be posted on the CRN and NICCSS websites.
  • Leveraged Elders Connect to secure funding from the United Way to continue the project activities.
  • Secured a UKAN grant for a research project (NICCSS, ALIVE, and UBC collaboration) to identify and understand the help-seeking patterns of Aboriginal seniors in Vancouver’s inner city, and the real and perceived barriers for marginalized seniors in accessing community services.
  • NICCSS planning for additional large, community engagement events in summer 2016, including senior/elder circles. 
  • A Cantonese-speaking, Chinese senior will receive “It’s Not Right” training in summer 2016, and a Chinese Seniors HUB will be created.