Health and Wellness

Health and wellness programs support seniors to maintain their health and well-being, and also can provide specific supports for seniors who experience barriers to participation in programming because of health conditions that limit their mobility and/or because they are emotionally or cognitively vulnerable.

Three seniors taking a break from an outdoor exercise activity

Many of the activities offered through health and wellness programming help vulnerable seniors learn how to better manage their health challenges and provide them with more structured options that bring together many of the components of the other program areas (e.g., nutritional supports, physical activity, recreation, education etc.).

These programs generally target those who are at a higher risk of being socially isolated and help increase seniors’ social connections and sense of engagement with the broader community. As part of this work, programs often do outreach to people in their homes and/or provide transportation to and from the program. This is important work since social isolation is associated with a number of negative health outcomes such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression and poor nutrition. Being socially connected, on the other hand, is a protective factor associated with positive health outcomes and resilience.[1]

There are many examples of health and wellness programs offered by community-based seniors’ services in B.C. including:

  • Peer counselling programs
  • Health and wellness clinics
  • Self-management and support groups
  • Programs that support homebound and isolated seniors

The program profiles and summaries described below represent only a few of the many excellent and varied programs offered across BC.

Profiles of Seniors’ Wellness Clinic Programs

Health and wellness clinics provide opportunities for seniors to receive services from volunteer and paid health professionals, access health education programming, and participate in health promotion or physical activities. Research shows that seniors’ wellness clinics can increase participation in exercise and contribute to emotional well-being[2], encourage healthy behaviours[3], and identify undiagnosed conditions[4]. Burnaby Partners’ in Seniors Wellness and the North Shore Keep Well Society are two organizations which run wellness clinics in Metro Vancouver.

Program Profile: Keep Well Program (North Shore Keep Well Society)

The North Shore Keep Well Society is a volunteer run society that offers Keep Well Programs at seven community sites across the North Shore. Read the full profile here.

Program Summary: SAIL – Seniors Active in Living (Burnaby Confederation House)

Burnaby Partners’ in Seniors Wellness offers Seniors (55+) Wellness Drop-in Services at four locations in Burnaby including the Seniors Active in Living (SAIL) program at Burnaby’s Confederation House, a municipally-run seniors’ centre in North Burnaby. Read the full profile here.

Profiles and Summaries of Programs That Support Homebound and Isolated Seniors

Seniors who are isolated or homebound often need additional support and outreach in order to be able to access services, to participate in community programs and to reduce their risk of social isolation. In some cases, they may require individual support delivered in the home. There are a number of community-based programs offering support to homebound or isolated seniors that complement the Better at Home programs which are offered across the province. For example, the West End Seniors Network runs Life Unlimited Seniors’ Services, which offers support in the form of friendly visitors, daily callers, accompaniment to medical appointments, and grocery shopping assistance.

Program Profile: Return to Health Program (Seniors Serving Seniors)

Return to Health is another example of a program that provides support for isolated seniors. They provide in-home support and connect seniors with community resources when they are discharged from the hospital and have no other supports in the community. Read the full profile here.

Other programs deliver support to homebound or isolated seniors through group activities. For example, each week the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre offers 17 low-barrier (free transportation, one-on-one assistance available, subsidized costs) programs called Keeping Connected, that work with seniors who have experienced a loss to keep them connected to, and engaged with, the broader community.

Program Profile: TAPS – Therapeutic Activity Program for Seniors (Valley Community Services)

Creston’s Therapeutic Activity Program for Seniors (TAPS) is another program serving isolated seniors. TAPS is offered five days a week by Valley Community Services and includes transportation to the program, physical and educational activities, and a nutritious lunch. Read the full profile here.

Program Profile: Share and Care (Seniors Come Share Society, Surrey Food Bank, City of Surrey)

The Share and Care Program is a low-barrier program run by the Senior Come Share Society’s (in partnership with the Surrey Food Bank and City of Surrey) that provides socializing opportunities for isolated seniors living in the North Surrey area. Read the full profile here.

Program Summary: Mount Waddington Adult Day Program (Multiple Partners)

The Mount Waddington Adult Day Program is similar to TAPS. It was piloted in the Mount Waddington area of Northern Vancouver Island and was initiated by the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice. Read the full profile here

Profiles of Peer Counselling Programs

In peer counselling programs, trained volunteers with similar life situations to the program participants, provide one-on-one emotional support and encouragement. Studies have found that peer counselling programs can provide benefits for both the peer counsellors[5] and the participants.[6] The Jewish Seniors’ Alliance provides peer support services to seniors, including a peer counselling program (profiled below).

Program Profile: Peer Counselling (Jewish Seniors’ Alliance)

The Jewish Seniors Alliance is 1 of 13 organizations offering a peer counselling program utilizing the Seniors Peer Counselling of BC (SPC/BC) peer counselling program model. Read the full profile here. 

Profiles of Support Group Programs

Support groups provide an opportunity for people who share similar concerns to meet on an ongoing basis to share experiences, offer support, and receive practical information and advice. Groups are offered by both non-profit and municipal senior-serving organizations and can focus on support for caregivers, those experiencing bereavement and loss, people living with chronic diseases or on those with a range of other needs.

One of the most common types of support groups is for family caregivers. The Family Caregivers of BC, is a provincial organization that organizes a comprehensive approach to caregiver support. They have a 1-800 number where caregivers receive one-on-one support, information about community resources and health services, and can book a telephone coaching appointment. The Family Caregivers of BC has identified 39 caregiver support groups across the province, some which focus on specific health conditions and are offered by organizations like the Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Society. These support groups have positive impacts on psychological wellbeing, depression, caregiver burden and social outcomes.[7] They are also are a place where caregivers and seniors learn about the availability of other services and health information.

North Shore Community Resources offers a comprehensive caregiver support program that includes support groups, educational workshops, one-on-one support, information and referral, and assistance navigating the healthcare system. The Family Caregiver Education and Support Program offered in Burnaby was another example of a comprehensive caregiver program and is profiled below. Unfortunately, they had their funding cut, so they are currently only able to offer a limited number of services.

Program Profile: Family Caregiver Education and Support Program (Burnaby Seniors Outreach Services Society)

The Family Caregiver Education and Support Program was initiated by the Burnaby Seniors Outreach Services Society (BSOSS) and run by a professional gerontologist with support from BSOSS staff. While the official Family Caregiver Education and Support Program ended in 2015 due to funding cuts, BSOSS has been able to continue with some of the components of the caregiver program. This profile primarily focuses on the program that ran between 2009-2015, before the loss of funding led to the end of several aspects of the program. Read the full profile here.

Footnotes

[1] Please see sections 2.2.1 and 4.3 from our report Raising the Profile of the Community-Based Seniors’ Services Sector in B.C.: A Review of the Literature for more information about the links between social support and health

[2] Medeiros, L., Kwan, D., Banez, C., Poroger-Edeistein, B., Mak, K., Barker, K., & Agellon, R. (2007). The Seniors Wellness Clinic: An Interprofessional Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Care Model. Geriatrics And Aging, 10(10), 661-666.

[3] Campbell, J., & Aday, R. H. (2001). Benefits of a nurse-managed wellness program. A senior center model. Using community-based sites for older adult intervention and self-care activities may promote an ability to maintain an independent lifestyle. Journal Of Gerontological Nursing, 27(3), 34-43

[4] Marshall, S. E., Cheng, B., Northridge, M. E., Kunzel, C., Huang, C., & Lamster, I. B. (2013). Integrating Oral and General Health Screening at Senior Centers for Minority Elders. American Journal Of Public Health, 103(6), 1022-1025.

[5] Garcia, Y. E., Metha, A., & Perfect, M. C. (1997). A senior peer counseling program: evaluation of training and benefits to counselors. Educational Gerontology, 23329-344. doi:10.1080/0360127970230403

[6] Chapin, R. K., Sergeant, J. F., Landry, S., Leedahl, S. N., Rachlin, R., Koenig, T., & Graham, A. (2013). Reclaiming Joy: Pilot Evaluation of a Mental Health Peer Support Program for Older Adults Who Receive Medicaid. Gerontologist, 53(2), 345-352.

[7] Chien, L., Chu, H., Guo, J., Liao, Y., Chang, L., Chen, C., & Chou, K. (2011). Caregiver support groups in patients with dementia: a meta-analysis. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(10), 1089-1098. doi:10.1002/gps.2660