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Extending a helping hand

For lonely and/or frustrated seniors Sandi McCreight is a phone call away. 250-365-2104 extension 34 - Jim Sinclair
For lonely and/or frustrated seniors Sandi McCreight is a phone call away. 250-365-2104 extension 34
— image credit: Jim Sinclair

Sandi McCreight was most likely not alone when quite some time ago she noticed a void in the level of local social services for senior citizens. So, with some significant backing from the Columbia Basin Trust the local advocate has instigated a six-month  pilot project geared toward the greater well-being of our senior relatives, friends and neighbours.

Sandi is sending out an S.O.S. (Seniors Outreach & Support). The program has just begun and will continue beyond June if the stats show it’s been effective.

“I spent the month of December getting things ready,” described McCreight on Jan. 2 from her office within the Community Response Network headquarters on 2nd Street, “getting some resources in, making contacts.”

A good number of service providers and groups in the area will have had a heads up in regard to the new service.

“Years ago here at Castlegar Community Services there was a program called Seniors’ Counsellors,” related McCreight. “They did a fantastic job of meeting with seniors. They called themselves counsellors, but what they really did was help with a lot of important things like completing forms, applying for benefits.”

The program wound down due to a lack of volunteers.

“It’s been a good couple of years that there hasn’t been a service like this around.,” said McCreight. “When you compare us to, say, Nelson, they have, for a senior woman, I think five different things (programs).”

The basic premise of the S.O.S. program is to make seniors and those who know them aware the project has begun. If you, or someone you know could use some help with something, or even a caring phone call… keep Sandi’s phone number handy: 250-365-2104 ext. 34.

Sandi will initially have help from a practicum student, and as time goes on there will be volunteers chipping in as well.

The plan is to leave no one left to fend for themselves, and allowed to get lonely and frustrated.

No one is trying to pry or be nosy, but sometimes folks could use a call, an invitation to take advantage of an overture of compassion.

“I’m also working with a local church group, trying to get them on board,” Sandi continued. “They want to do something to serve the community so we’re going to discuss them doing the ‘friends calling friends’ program, where we would call seniors who are potentially isolated and lonely, just to do a check up on them.” This is where the community at large may become involved in the project. Suppose you know of someone you may not necessarily be close to, maybe someone in your neighbourhood. Does it seem like they get a shortage of company? Would they possibly appreciate someone asking how they’re doing? Those are the people Sandi McCreight wants to hear about. If they prefer to be left alone their wishes are respected.

There is a fair amount of slack that can and should be picked up in terms of community members  watching out for one another, as McCreight elaborates, “I think it’s something that’s really important – the more that health care and services are cut back, the more we see seniors (suffer), especially in the winter when we’re so isolated.

“If you can’t get a ride to go to an appointment or on an outing to do social things, that loneliness compounds and can cause health problems and all sorts of things.

“Even five minutes on the phone with a virtual stranger  is a contact when you know they’re calling because they genuinely care.”

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