Vancouver Island seniors will be able to receive the support they need during the COVID-19 crisis through a new province-wide initiative, Safe Seniors, Strong Communities. Seniors can request volunteer help with grocery shopping, meal prep and prescription pick-up or receive friendly check-in call by simply dialing 2-1-1 or filling in an online form at www.bc211.ca.

The program is a new partnership between United Way’s Better at Home program, bc211 and the B.C. Government through the Ministry of Health. Once a senior contacts bc211, they will be connected with a volunteer in their region who can help them. This service will be available 7 days a week during daytime hours.

“Seniors, who live independently with the help of family and friends, are facing deepened isolation and a heightened sense of loneliness and may lack access to resources during the current crisis. Hearing a friendly voice, getting help picking up groceries and prescriptions is becoming increasingly difficult,” says Kahir Lalji, Provincial Director, Population Health, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “With Safe Seniors, Strong Communities available through bc211, help is just a phone call or a click away and will keep seniors healthy and connected.”

“We are grateful to be working with bc211 and the Ministry of Health to provide these essential supports to seniors across central and northern Vancouver Island,” says Signy Madden, Executive Director, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island (UWCNVI). “It’s important we protect our vulnerable neighbours during this challenging time and this program can help ensure they are getting what they need. If you are a senior in need of support, please reach out, we want to help you.”

bc211 call centres will monitor calls and online applications both from seniors in need of assistance and from volunteers willing to offer their help. The information will then be forwarded to one of 24 designated Better at Home COVID response agencies across the province. The Better at Home agency will then match local volunteers with seniors who need help. All services provided will follow strict safety and social distancing protocols in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidelines. Services are available free of charge for all seniors 65 and over.

UWCNVI donors and partners such as the Nanaimo Foundation funded the expansion of text, web chat and dial in options for Vancouver Island in 2017. These ongoing investments and prior planning have provided the capacity for the urgent mobilization of important supports like this new Safe Seniors, Strong Communities program in this unprecedented time of need.

This is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Health, bc211 and United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and other United Way’s across the province.

Nicole Benson

Director of Communications, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island