Annastasia Stevens has heard from many seniors.
They’re anxious. They’re afraid. They don’t want to leave their homes.
Many seniors have relied on the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society (CSRS), and that need is expected to grow significantly in the weeks ahead as the coronavirus spreads through the city.
“Right now, we’ve opened the floodgates but water isn’t coming through yet. We know that in two, three or four weeks, it will be gushing through at a rate we can’t manage,” said Stevens, social supports manager for CSRS. “We want to get ahead of it by having volunteers ready to go as the needs emerge.”
The resource society announced in late March that it wants to grow its volunteer total by some 500 people in the coming weeks to deal with the fallout of COVID-19.
For 25 years, the CSRS has focused on supporting at-risk seniors in Calgary--meaning those who live in poverty or perhaps are without family support in the community.
The CSRS is attempting to support any senior in Calgary that needs the service by loosening qualifying rules and criteria. The CSRS has created a fast track to screen and train volunteers, ensuring they’re able to provide the services quickly to those who need it.
There are three key areas of focus for the CSRS. One is a city-wide network of social workers who provide long-term support with housing transitions, assisting with benefit applications and the like.
The second stream is unique to the agency, a program called SeniorConnect, which provides urgent, same-day social worker response.
“You might have an elderly neighbour whose husband recently passed away,” said Stevens. “You know that this person used to be avid gardener and was outside a lot. But now you've noticed the grass is two feet tall and the blinds are drawn all the time. You might think, I don’t know how to reach out, but I have a concern.”
The third focus area for CSRS is Stevens’ social supports department, which sees volunteers driving seniors to their medical appointments or dropping off groceries, medication and toiletries to clients’ homes.
In normal times, Stevens and her colleagues service 1,600 clients with the support of 1,500 volunteers.
“Almost all the seniors that we see regularly are extremely socially isolated,” said Stevens. “They don’t have family or their family isn’t around or doesn’t help them, so they feel very disconnected. One of the things we’re hearing is the social distancing measures that have been put in place, while absolutely critical to the public health, also have a negative impact because seniors who are already isolated are that much more isolated. That’s been a big concern. They’re experiencing increased loneliness and, especially when they’re feeling frightened and anxious, to not have someone to reassure them … that’s extra difficult.”
For information on how to volunteer to help the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, visit calgaryseniors.org