The Creative Expressions program is a unique opportunity for patients being treated with middle to late stage dementia, and their caregivers, to interact, create and experience art. Through participation in weekly, one hour sessions led by Therapeutic Recreationists from the Behavioural Health Unit, patients are able to express themselves, bond with their caregivers and most importantly, have a positive and engaging experience. Activities can range from hands-on art creation like painting and sculpting, to visiting the Art Gallery of Hamilton to experience art in a new setting and be out in the community.
All activities are focused on patient engagement in order to enhance strengths and abilities rather than emphasizing the challenges associated with their individual conditions. The Creative Expressions program can accommodate 8-10 patients at a time and runs year round. The Behavioural Health unit, where patients participating in the program, treated 144 seniors this past year.
Currently, the program runs thanks to the resourcefulness of the Therapeutic Recreationists . From using left over materials to engaging their own networks, they manage to plan a diverse selection of activities. With the support of the GIVE65 Initiative, proceeds will be used to purchase art supplies, arrange future trips for art experiences (such as visiting the Art Gallery of Hamilton) and fund visits from art enthusiasts and experts to lead sessions within St. Peter's Hospital. Having funds dedicated specifically for the Creative Expressions program will ensure patients are able to take part in unique, engaging and enjoyable experiences that are focused on their own self-expression and quality of life.
Tea & Conversation (T&C) is a weekly outreach program that ensures that even the most vulnerable seniors in the community are not isolated and alone.
As Calgary's aging population increases, so do the number of isolated seniors. Research shows that severe and prolonged social isolation leads to alarming increases in loneliness, depression, chronic health issues and emergency room visits.
Confederation Park 55+ Activity Centre's Tea & Conversation program proactively combats these issues through a weekly event which promotes social interaction through dance, music, and stimulating conversation in a supportive environment. An average of 500 participants a month build and nourish vital friendships, and access supportive social services. For many, it is their only opportunity to get out and socialize during the week. T&C is made possible through the generosity of donors and sponsors
Our Outreach Program would mean a social worker would be able to meet with seniors in their home when age related changes prevent them from getting out in the community for help. They would get help to navigate systems, apply for benefits or complete forms to ensure that seniors who cannot manage these things on their own get the help they need. The Outreach worker would be able to help them resolve issues, get connected to needed supports, like our subsidized housekeeping service, personal or health care, or help with tenancy issues, ensuring income tax is filed, and that they are able to get connected to food banks, meal services or rent supplements so that lack of income doesn't put their housing at risk. Seniors often face many issues as they age, like mobility challenges, cognitive decline, memory loss, hearing and vision loss and may also face chronic illnesses and these can isolate them. What we see happen is that the inability to deal with many regular tasks leads to loss of income/benefits, like pension or rent supplements, and that seniors can soon face an eviction and end up very stressed and even homeless. Through this support, seniors can maintain health, housing and prolong independence and live in dignity as long as is possible.
Last year, we helped over 3,000 lonely, less fortunate seniors who had no one else to help, and had nowhere else to turn. The seniors we work with are some of our communities' most vulnerable. They are struggling to get by. Many have mobility issues or mental health concerns. Many face adversities. They may be abused physically, emotionally or financially. Most are alone and without any social or family connections.
Our volunteers visit seniors when they are lonely; advocate for seniors when they have no one else; give seniors rides to medical appointments when they have no way to get there and are feeling apprehensive; assist seniors with their shopping when they are too frail to manage it all; and step up to help seniors when there are no other options.
But what about their pets? What about the senior who can no longer walk their dog, or clean up after them due to mobility issues? What about the senior who cannot afford to pay a vet bill when their cat is in distress? What about the senior who has to move in to long-term care and cannot take their beloved pet with them and it needs to be re-homed?
As with how many of our Volunteer Programs were created, Calgary Seniors identified a significant gap in services and we stepped in to fill that gap. Our Volunteer Services Team was seeing a significant number of seniors in need of assistance with their pet. These seniors needed support in appropriately caring for their pets to not only help keep senior and pet together, but also ensure pets are properly cared for.
When pets are neglected, the living environment can become unsafe for both the animal and the senior. The senior/pet relationship is very valuable, but the animals can become a burden and even a safety/health risk if not taken care of properly (feces in home, aggressive behaviour, unplanned reproduction etc.).
Having identified this missing link between pet ownership and vulnerable seniors' quality of life, we piloted a new program called Pet Assist that saw volunteers providing pet support for low income and isolated seniors. Pet Assist provides seniors with their pet care needs, thereby enabling the pet and senior to stay together as long as possible.
In 2017, our volunteers and community partners helped keep almost fifty (50) animals in caring homes. Forty-nine volunteers logged almost 600 hours helped clients with such tasks such as transportation to the vet, basic grooming, dog walking, changing cat litter, purchasing food and food delivery.
Calgary Seniors has also secured formal partnerships with Pawsitive Match, MEOW Foundation, Canine Oasis and Vets to Go for emergency veterinary support.
The seniors who are recipients of Pet Assist have no one to help them and no financial aid to help them with their pets. There are no other services of this kind in the city and too often the only option is to surrender the pet. There is a strong bond between a senior and their pet. They are very attached to their furry family members and the pets give them a reason for being (getting up in the morning, going outside, companionship, love etc.).
The goal for the Pet Assist program is to have both the animal and the senior remain healthy and happy and together for as long as possible.
Due to the high demand for this program and the heartwarming success stories, we are seeking community donations to help us keep this program running so that more pets, and their seniors, are cared for. Pet Assist costs Calgary Seniors $47,883.00 annually to run. Your support will help us reach our fundraising goal for the program, which will enable Pet Assist to run at full capacity, as there is currently a waitlist.
Your donation will help pets by:
• Fewer pets ending up in local shelters
• Better health care for pets
• Exercise, social inclusion and companionship for the pet
Your donation will help seniors by:
• Receiving the loyalty, affection and unconditional love from their pets
• Decreased anxiety and depression
• Exercise, social inclusion and companionship for the senior
• Bringing joy and laughter to daily life, which in later years is often uneventful
Your support would help us reach our goals for 2018, ensuring that over 100 seniors and pets stay together!