Find out what`s going on with
various ESCC projects

ESCC Updates               February 2017

In this issue:
Sharing approaches to address seniors isolation
New hub for south west Edmonton home supports
Social Isolation—Describing the Elephant
Phone line provides a picture of seniors' needs
Translating age-friendly knowledge into action
Sharing approaches to address seniors isolation.
There is growing recognition of the impact of seniors social isolation, and people in the seniors sector are eager to learn about the issue and what is being done to address it. Organizations in Edmonton and elsewhere in Alberta are identifying, connecting and supporting isolated seniors. In December 2016 ESCC brought together many of these organizations to share their experiences and expertise at the Addressing Social Isolation of Seniors Showcase. 

More than 100 people gathered to share information and learn about initiatives such as culturally-responsive outreach, intergenerational programming, transportation resources, community connectors, LGBTQ seniors, peer support, and ways to connect and engage seniors. More information on the 21 initiatives featured at the showcase, including contact information for the presenters, can be found in the Topics Guide. If you were unable to attend the showcase, we encourage you to reach out to these organizations to learn more about their initiatives and approaches.

Edmonton City Council has also placed a priority on increasing awareness and understanding about seniors isolation and loneliness through the Council Initiative on Urban Isolation and Mental Health and Council Initiative on Seniors.The Hello, How Are You? campaign stems from these council initiatives. We were pleased that Mayor Iveson joined us to talk about how we can all contribute to reducing social isolation experienced by seniors.

It’s heartening to know that so many organizations are working to reduce social isolation and improve the health and quality of life of seniors in our community. ESCC is part of a local collaborative effort aimed at reducing social isolation. If you want to know more about our collective work, you can contact Tim Henderson at 780-423-5635 ext. 5 or via email at  
New hub for south west Edmonton home supports.
Seniors in south west Edmonton who need assistance with home supports such as snow removal and housekeeping can now contact SouthWest Edmonton Seniors Association (SWESA). 

As of January 3, 2017, SWESA has taken over this role from Lifestyle Helping Hands Seniors Association (LHHSA) which coordinated the Seniors Home Supports Program in the south west district for the last two years. This transition was planned when the home supports district model was designed in 2014.

Seniors whose postal codes start with T6G, T6H, T6J, T6R or T6W can contact SWESA for referrals to screened service providers offering snow removal, yard help, housekeeping and home repair services. Barbara Newell is SWESA’s Home Supports Coordinator. She can be reached at:
Phone: 780-860-2931

Promotional material for the Seniors Home Supports Program has been updated to reflect the transition and other updates. If you’d like to help spread the word, feel free to use the material below. If you would like articles or images customized to your specifications, contact Janelle at
SHSP Referral Info (for sector stakeholders)
SHSP Information for Seniors
SHSP Promo for Seniors
Images: half page (7.5 x 5 in.) and quarter page (3.625 x 3.45 in.) 

ESCC continues to act as the backbone for this collaborative initiative. This includes a role in the evaluation and support of the data management system as well as communications and facilitating meetings of the collective. If you have questions about the initiative, contact Sheila Hallett at 780-423-5635 ext. 3 or via email at 
Social Isolation—Describing the Elephant.
An ancient Indian parable tells of six blind men who are asked to describe an elephant. Each man is touching a different part of the elephant and each claims that an elephant is only that piece that he can feel and describe. The men are intransigent in their beliefs about the elephant, until the king tells them that each of them is correctly describing a piece of the elephant, but that it is much bigger, and has all of the characteristics that each is describing. Thus, by working together and sharing their knowledge, they are able to describe the beast known as an elephant. At the same time, they learn that they are blind, and that there are different ways of seeing and knowing the same thing.

While social isolation may be the elephant, PEGASIS—the Pan-Edmonton Group Addressing Social Isolation of Seniors—is just one of the group of blind men trying to describe the beast and figure out what to do with it. In fact, it is like we are one of a thousand blind people in the middle of a zoo, all trying to describe what we are “seeing”, and to determine what we are going to do with these bizarre and diverse creatures. Some of us have figured out that our elephant—social isolation—is growing, but we have not yet found a way to incorporate everyone’s description of the elephant so we can work together on solving the problem.

Intuitively, the solution to seniors’ social isolation is to facilitate social connectedness and belonging. That doesn’t seem so difficult until we start looking at the factors related to the human experience of feeling connected, valued and belonging. The issue becomes infinitely more complex when we try to factor in differences between isolation and loneliness, choice and circumstance, and the challenges of individual versus collective resources and decision-making.

Continue reading the full article.
Phone line provides a picture of seniors' needs.
The calls placed to the Seniors Information Phone Line (a program of 211 Alberta-Edmonton and Area) provide valuable insight into the needs of Edmonton seniors. 

Of the 4,957 calls received in 2016, the top three topics that callers requested information about were:
  1. Aging issues (which includes requests for in-home assistance): 33.1 per cent
  2. Financial needs: 18.7 per cent
  3. Physical health: 15.9 per cent
Calls about personal finance and aging issues increased from 2015. It was also noted that abuse mostly of a financial, physical and neglectful or emotional nature was brought up in 142 calls and suicide was brought up as an issue in 45 calls. 

Calls handled by the Seniors Information Phone Line cover a wide variety of issues such as basic needs, mental health, volunteering, shelter and housing, transportation, recreation, and tax services. Calls also typically involve questions about more than one topic. The details in the 2016 Seniors Information Phone Line Annual Report provide a rich picture of the types of issues Edmonton seniors are dealing with.

The majority of callers to the phone line are seniors (69 per cent) and most are calling on behalf of themselves (85 per cent). It is interesting to note that calls were also made on behalf of a family member/friend (10.8 per cent) or a client (2.6 per cent).

While the vast majority of requests for information or referrals made to the Seniors Information Phone Line can be met, 81 unmet needs were recorded in 2016 on topics such as low income/subsidized rental housing, senior ride programs, bus fare and homeless shelter information. Most were because the agency had a waiting list, an agency wasn’t open at the time, or the caller was ineligible for the service.

The insights gained from the Seniors Information Phone Line data can inform our work in the seniors sector in many ways. 

Thank you to 211 Alberta-Edmonton and Area for providing the statistics and summaries used in this article.
Translating age-friendly knowledge into action.
Age Friendly Edmonton (AFE) awarded funding to five large projects via the "Knowledge to Action" Call for Proposals in the fall of 2016. Each of the projects was able to demonstrate how they would translate research into action and build upon the work of AFE to date. 

The Multicultural Health Brokers received funding for Age of Wisdom Immigrant and Refugee Seniors Collective. The project, which is phase two of the Age of Wisdom work to date, will develop a collective of immigrant/refugee seniors, ethno-cultural community leaders, service providing agencies and public institutions to work on identified issues and relevant actions for change.

GeriActors Theatre received funding for Intergenerational Theatre and Teaching Model for Understanding an Age Friendly City. The project will involve seniors, university-aged students, and high school students in a process of research and theatrical exploration into the elements of what ‘age friendly’ means. Particular attention will be focused on ageism and social prejudice, stereotypes, exclusion and invisibility, maintenance of individual agency, cross-cultural engagement, and intergenerational communication and understanding.

The Edmonton Pride Seniors Group received funding for Intergenerational Learnings GLBTQ Older Adults and Queer Youth. The project will facilitate conversations with queer youth and GLBTQ older adults leading to improved self-advocacy, role modeling, mentorship, and supportive networks.

Sage Seniors Association received funding for Age-ing to Sage-ing: Age Friendly Edmonton. The project will utilize an intergenerational community development approach to apply and mobilize age-friendly research and resources and will provide practical support, information and tools for the implementation of initiatives emerging at a neighbourhood level in northeast Edmonton.

Strathcona Place Society received funding for Seniors and Youth for a Non-Ageism Community. The project will create communication, participation, and information that will result in improved respect and inclusion for seniors, decreased negative attitudes about ageing, partnerships with multi-cultural communities, and increased intergenerational opportunities.

Stories and communication materials will be developed by four of the five funded projects as part of their final deliverables (with the exception of the Age of Wisdom Phase Two project). These stories will be presented in formats (e.g. video) that will provide some tangible ways to increase public awareness about Edmonton’s progress towards becoming more age-friendly. 

For more information, contact Elizabeth Stephen, Age Friendly Edmonton Coordinator at or 780-423-5635 ext. 4.
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