Rising to the Challenge: How BC’s Community-Based Seniors’ Service Agencies Stepped Up During COVID-19

[Excerpts]The leadership team for the project included Marcy Cohen, co-chair of the CBSS Leadership Council and chair of the Steering Committee for this project; Kahir Lalji, the Provincial Director of Population Health with the United Way of the Lower Mainland; and Steve Patty of Dialogues in Action. 

The purpose of this study was to undertake a province-wide project to gather data about the effectiveness and responsiveness of the CBSS sector in addressing the needs of vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four research questions informed the design of the data collection:

1. What has been the effectiveness of the CBSS sector in serving seniors during COVID-19?

2. What has been the responsiveness of the CBSS sector to the needs of seniors during COVID-19? 

3. What has been the value of partnerships with the CBSS sector during COVID-19?

4. What has been the influence of the CBSS sector during the COVID-19?

As this assessment shows, the Community-Based Seniors’ Service (CBSS) Sector rose to the challenge and was well-positioned to respond quickly and effectively to emergent and emerging needs of Older British Columbians. Through nimbleness and responsiveness, the sector identifed what needed to be done differently to maintain continuity and increase supports where they were needed most. The staff and volunteers in the sector worked long hours, reached out to old and new community partners, established collaborative community responses, and provided services in areas where they had no previous experience; and did this in innovative and ground-breaking ways.

Though this study is primarily focused on the effectiveness and responsiveness of the CBSS organizations and agencies during the pandemic, the data also highlight the particular kinds of acute challenges faced by many seniors that have been intensifed by the pandemic experience:
1. Isolation
2. Loneliness
3. Invisibility
4. Anxiety
5. Transportation
6. Food Insecurity
7. Technology gaps


CASE STUDY
Technology in Fraser Lake
Autumn Services – Society for Senior Support knows their community well. When a donation of smart phones from Telus Connecting for Good was delivered through the United Way of the Lower Mainland’s Better at Home program, Autumn Services knew how and to whom to distribute the phones. The impact of this collaborative effort is largely attributable to the close relationships between staff and community, the enthusiasm and dedicated leadership of the organization, and the exible funding by United Way of the Lower Mainland.
See page 64 for the full case study.


CASE STUDY
Maximizing the Impact of Partnership in Nelson
Kootenay Seniors leveraged extensive existing partnerships to reach seniors, addressing
not only seniors’ basic needs, but their social interests as well. By connecting with WorkSafe BC and Interior Health Authority to determine safety protocols, policies, and procedures, Kootenay Seniors developed a safe systemfor volunteers to deliver food and necessities
to seniors, and supported both Nelson Food Cupboard and Meals on Wheels with additional drivers. Kootenay Seniors also developed
social and educational activities for seniors both virtually and in socially-distanced settings to reduce isolation among seniors. Kootenay Seniors served as a centralized hub for several partners to deliver services to seniors, they relied on provincial resources to ensure safety, and they leveraged intergenerational volunteers to develop a higher level of attention to seniors.
See page 69 for the full case study

Part 3 – Recommendations for the Future

1. Promote the CBSS sector as an essential service
2. Build, support, and sustain partnerships
3. Develop the staff capacity of the sector
4. Strengthen the support for volunteers
5. Advance strategies for senior inclusion and engagement
6. Strengthen the resilience of the sector
7. Secure stable and core funding for the sector