Invermere selected for rural seniors pilot project

By Erin Knutson

Special to The Pioneer

Invermere is one of five rural communities that has been selected in an exciting new initiative called the Better at Home Rural and Remote Pilot Project, which caters to the needs of an aging demographic, providing non-medical support to seniors and giving them tools to live higher quality lives at home.

Invermere has an aging community and, being in a rural setting, we face different situations than those in an urban setting, said Theresa Wood, events co-ordinator for the District of Invermere. We also have many people retiring here that do not have family in the area, so we will need a strong community. There is also a huge waiting list for beds in senior and assisted care residences and the demand is only going to grow as the baby boomers are starting to hit retirement. Helping people stay in their home longer is best for everyone.

The Better at Home program is sponsored by the B.C. government and facilitated by United Way. The rural pilot is basically an offshoot of the B.C.-wide initiative that has helped 61 urban communities adopt the non-medical program (seniors not requiring complex medical attention). The program aims to see seniors living safely and happily at home and is subsidized so that its affordable and accessible to all who apply.

Things like transport, snow-shovelling, housecleaning; its the little things like yard maintenance that are important and having these things taken care of gives the seniors a sense of pride, so they feel like they can have people over for a visit, whereas they might isolate out of a sense of embarrassment because of the condition of their home, said Debbie Sharp, project co-ordinator for United Way. We operate on a sliding scale, so its very affordable and it helps keep seniors connected to the wider community, while greatly improving the quality of their lives.

The program has a solid reputation in bigger communities like Cranbrook and Creston. Now Invermere along with Nakusp, the Villages of Fraser Lake and Valemount, and Pender Island will behave as guinea pigs for the offshoot rural program.

Invermere was chosen based on its strengths, such as an awareness of senior issues in the community and accompanying supports already in place.

We want to enhance the strengths and utilize the local resources and build up the capacities, while finding ways to increase support, said Ms. Sharp. We dont want something thats just going to last for two years; we want to create something that is viable, sustainable and will enhance existing strengths.

Invermere has the resources and elements necessary for the success of this type of program, she added, which is why it was selected out of 30 potential rural candidates.

We set communities up for success, its a collaborative effort where we use our assets and fill in the gaps, said Ms. Sharp. Invermere has an older community, and its a place where we can solve problems and network, while we experience and set up the program in a rural setting.

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