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ESCC Updates                         July 2015

Poverty and Edmonton seniors

Many Edmontonians are affected by poverty, and efforts are underway to address this issue. At the ESCC Conversation Café on June 17, seniors sector stakeholders came together to discuss how Edmonton seniors are faring and what our organizations can do to help.

To inform the discussions, ESCC asked John Kolkman, Research Coordinator with the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC) to provide some background data on Edmonton seniors. The ESPC undertakes social research on low income and poverty issues in Edmonton and recently published A Profile of Poverty in Edmonton. John’s presentation contains data from a number of sources which provide a picture of low-income seniors in Edmonton.

Participants then broke into small groups to discuss the issue based on their experiences with the Edmonton seniors community. Many people said they were surprised by the number of seniors who are responsible for raising children (John shared data that 3.8 per cent of single seniors and 8 per cent of senior couples have children under the age of 18 living with them. This totals over 16,000 seniors.) However, much of the other data presented wasn’t a surprise. Indeed it confirmed what many know and see in the community – seniors are struggling with rising costs and trying to make ends meet.

Participants acknowledged there’s been some improvement in seniors’ situations over the last half-century because of pension programs, but they also observe that seniors’ incomes currently are not keeping pace with increases in living costs. There was also discussion about how more seniors are having to carry debt and there is an increased awareness of financial abuse.

The people who took part in the round table discussions are involved with a variety of seniors organizations and shared how poverty in the seniors population affects their organizations. Organizations are challenged to keep costs low for seniors by offering subsidized programs, reduced membership fees, etc. and must often fundraise to cover costs. Even with efforts to keep costs as low as possible, there is fear that many seniors don’t even come to seniors organizations because of an inability to pay.

Participants also discussed how individual organizations and the seniors sector collectively could address the issues that low-income seniors are facing. Responses highlighted that senior-serving organizations can help draw attention to the issues of poverty in the seniors population and that it is important to connect with the EndPovertyEdmonton Task Force to ensure seniors issues are represented.

ESCC also asked Lucenia Oritz from the City of Edmonton to share information on the EndPovertyEdmonton Task Force. In the fall of 2015 the task force will provide a report to Edmonton City Council including strategic solutions, best ideas about how to end poverty and recommendations on next steps. With Council approval, a full 10-year implementation plan for action will be developed by early 2016.
Update on Home Supports Initiative

As mentioned in the January issue of ESCC Updates a number of Edmonton seniors organizations are working together to implement a six-district model for delivery of home support services. Westend Seniors Activity Centre, North West Edmonton Seniors Society, North Edmonton Seniors Association, South East Edmonton Seniors Association, Mill Woods Seniors Activity Centre, SouthWest Edmonton Seniors Association, Lifestyles Helping Hands Seniors Association, Sage and the Society of Seniors Caring About Seniors are involved in this joint initiative which will help seniors age in place by providing a streamlined system for seniors to access reliable and affordable home supports for snow removal, yard services, minor home repair and housekeeping.

ESCC is facilitating meetings of representatives from each of the collaborating organizations to develop policies and materials to support the initiative. A manual to guide the home support coordinators in each district is being finalized and most districts will begin accepting referrals for the upcoming snow season (the north east district will not be up and running until 2016). 

The agencies are now beginning to focus on how the program will be evaluated and what information/data will need to be collected in each district to help organizers understand what is working well and what could be improved. The group is also hoping to focus some attention on marketing and promotion of the program and create some joint resources that all districts could use to raise awareness about the program. This will require some strategies to tie promotions to districts and the Seniors Information Phone Line (211) as a number that would provide a first point of entry if seniors don't have a relationship with a district senior provider already. More information on how to promote and access the services will be provided in the fall. 
Insights into developing positive workplaces
Can a story about a clown nose and being pulled over by police illustrate how to build positive relationships? It can if you’re Brenda Robinson.

Brenda led a memorable session exploring ways to incorporate humour into work and relationships for an enthusiastic audience of seniors sector staff and volunteers on May 27 at the Laughter and the Workplace session organized by ESCC. By sharing humorous stories, she illustrated how to think and speak more positively and build positive relationships.

ESCC asked Brenda to share her insights into developing positive workplaces and relationships for those who missed the session. Here’s her top 10 list for enabling more laughter in the workplace:
  • Be a solution seeker not a problem solver 
  • Focus on what’s next instead of the past 
  • Emphasize what can be done instead of what can’t be done 
  • Try to “ask” instead of “tell” 
  • Understand the importance of meeting and greeting
  • Ask for the behaviour you want instead of talking about the behaviour you don’t want
  • Believe in the positive approach 
  • Minimize apologies unless they are meaningful 
  • Update your language for positive results
  • Add a little humour – it always lightens up the situation
You can read articles on Brenda’s website for more information on many of these points.

ESCC organized this event at the request of our member organizations, and feedback from executive directors and people who attended the session supports the value of hosting such sector-wide learning opportunities. We were fortunate that the Muttart Foundation provided funding to help cover the costs of the event which meant organizations could afford to send multiple staff members. As an organization, we strive to be responsive to member requests. If you have suggestions for how ESCC can meet your needs, contact us.
Stay up to date with Age Friendly Edmonton

There are a lot of exciting projects being developed by Age Friendly Edmonton working groups and you can stay up to date on the latest news in a number of ways:
 
  • The Age Friendly Edmonton newsletter is a good way to find out about projects underway and learn about age-friendly resources. You can read past issues and subscribe to receive the newsletter.
  • The list of working group projects for 2015 will give you an idea of the variety of tasks being tackled and you can contact the chairs of the working groups if you have any questions.
  • www.agefriendlyedmonton.ca is a comprehensive source of information about the initiative including partner organizations and resources.
  • Age Friendly Edmonton is now on social media. Follow @AgeFriendlyYEG onTwitter and like www.facebook.com/agefriendlyedmonton on Facebook. Did you know you don’t have to have Twitter or Facebook accounts to check out what’s new? Just click on the links.
  • You can also connect with Elizabeth Stephen, the Age Friendly Edmonton Coordinator at 780-423-5635 ext. 4 or via email at agefriendly@seniorscouncil.net.

ESCC provides communication support


ESCC supports a number of sector working groups including the Interagency Programmers Committee (IPC), a group of programmers from local seniors centres. Recently ESCC developed communications tools to help the IPC promote an initiative that will expand access to seniors programming.

Eleven seniors centres will allow reciprocal program registration among their centres. This agreement gives members of a participating centre the ability to register for instructional courses at another participating centre for the member rate. Reciprocal program registration benefits the centres by providing a larger pool of registrants for their programs and gives centres an opportunity to introduce their programming to seniors who may not have been aware of their centre before.

ESCC created customized communication tools that will help centres with promotion. Posters, flyers, newsletter articles and images, promos for websites and program guides, and sample social media posts will be used to alert members to the opportunity to take courses at other centres.

Reciprocal program registration takes effect this fall. To learn more about this initiative, visit www.seniorscouncil.net/rpr.
Collaborating to reduce social isolation among seniors

About 15 per cent of seniors in Canada experience isolation – they do not have the support required, do not participate in activities, do not feel connected to other people, and do not feel valued. The National Seniors Council released a report in 2014 on the impact of social isolation on seniors’ quality of life and well-being. The New Horizons for Seniors Program challenged Canadians to respond and a $21 million fund was allocated for projects across Canada

ESCC members rallied around the call for proposals for collaborative approaches that measurably reduce the rate of social isolation among seniors. Applicants were encouraged to work together to make an impact, try new approaches, think outside the box, be innovative and include unlikely partners – all within 6 weeks! At the collective table we had the largest seniors subsidized housing provider in Edmonton, multicultural organizations, senior centres, assisted transportation providers and health care providers.

If the proposal is successful, ESCC will provide the backbone support required for the projects which aim to find socially-isolated seniors, reach out to them (making them aware of opportunity), connect and match them to formal and informal supports. Wish us luck!
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