Healthy Aging CORE
Healthy Aging Collaborative Online Resources and Education is a platform to connect community based seniors services organizations and allied agencies and individuals in British Columbia. CORE is designed to provide up-to-date information, resources, and training opportunities and to make it easier to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in order to help build capacity, strengthen the network, and develop a collective and cohesive voice among volunteers, staff, and others who support healthy aging initiatives.
The development and implementation of Healthy Aging CORE is a response to recommendations made from community partners and stakeholders across the Province, based on extensive research, feedback from regional consultations, and actions from the 2017 Provincial Healthy Aging Summit.
Community Based Seniors' Services
Community based organizations provide seniors with access to a range of low-barrier programs in seven core areas:
- nutritional supports
- health and wellness programs
- physical activity
- education, recreation, and creative arts
- information, referral, and personal advocacy
- affordable housing
These programs and services are offered through a range of municipal and non-profit agencies including: senior centres; community centres; neighbourhood houses; community coalitions; ethno-cultural organizations; and multi-service non-profit societies. The seven core service areas were determined through community consultations across the province with input from older British Columbians, service providers, caregivers, funders, academia, and others. Research confirms that these core services are essential in supporting older adults, and particularly those with low to moderate incomes, to develop new social networks, remain physically and mentally active, and live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Raising the Profile Project
The initial research and consultations were part of the Raising the Profile Project (RPP), launched in 2016 to increase support and recognition of the role of community-based seniors’ services in promoting health and fostering resilience in seniors in BC. The project goals were to:
- Raise awareness in the broader community and government of the vital role played by community-based seniors’ services to support seniors to remain socially, physically, and mentally active, and maintain their health and independence for as long as possible.
- Document the uneven provision of, and support for, these services in different communities and regions of the province, and the limited access to services for many low income, isolated, immigrant, LGBTQ, rural, and indigenous seniors.
- Outline a business case for greater investment in this sector based on the evidence showing that healthcare utilization and health care costs can be significantly reduced when seniors are socially engaged, physically active, and have access to nutritional education and supports.
- Identify specific capacity building strategies/social innovations that would improve collaboration and coordination within the sector and/or result in stronger relationships with, and commitment from, external partners and funders.
A significant component of RPP was the development of a provincial network, the goal of which is to understand and build on the capacity of community-based seniors’ services to meet the growing needs of an aging population. The network consists of executive directors and managers for municipal and nonprofit organizations around BC, seniors who are volunteer leaders in the community-based senior services sector, as well as provincial organizations and others that support the work of the sector.
In its short tenure, the Raising the Profile Project yielded valuable results, including:
- bringing together key stakeholders, including seniors themselves, from across the province in a central forum;
- producing a literature review and profiles of programs and initiatives demonstrating the impact of community based programs and services;
- organizing regional community consultations; and
- hosting the inaugural Provincial Summit on Aging in partnership with the Province of BC, United Way British Columbia, City of Surrey, BC Recreation and Parks Association, and the Active Aging Research Team based out of the University of British Columbia.
The consultations and research identified five main challenges:
- Lack of recognition of the important role played by organizations delivering programs and services to older adults
- Fragmentation – lack of connection and cohesion between and among service providers
- Uneven service provision across BC
- Lack of adequate and sustainable funding
- Limited resources and capacity
To help address these challenges, 10 key priority areas were identified as a focus for improving capacity of organizations and the sector as a whole through development of:
- volunteer infrastructure
- seniors planning committees and roundtables
- consistent and sustained funding
- shared language concerning the sector’s benefits
- training by the sector and for the sector
- information, referral, and personal advocacy
- transportation infrastructure
- diversity and inclusion capacity
- intergenerational programs
urban, rural, and remote connections
The progress made through the Raising the Profile Project created a strong foundation for continuing and deepening this work by coordinating, connecting, and building capacity of community based organizations in service to strengthening the sector that is so essential to the wellbeing of older adults and their families. Bringing the work into the United Way British Columbia in November 2017 leveraged the existing provincial infrastructures of the United Way’s Better at Home program and Healthy Aging Department to build on the capacity building and sector strengthening work initiated through the Raising the Profile Project.
To better support older adults to be socially connected, live healthy lifestyles, and maintain independence, United Way’s Healthy Aging strategy aims to help British Columbia’s seniors stay at home and in their communities for longer. Working towards a vision of a healthy, caring, inclusive community for all members, Healthy Aging by United Way embraces a holistic setting where older adults have unrestricted access to community programs and services so that they can age in place. Together with community agencies, local, provincial, and federal governments, and a diverse set of vested partners and donors, the Healthy Aging Team delivers programs including Better at Home, Active Aging, and Community and Sector Development initiatives, such as Healthy Aging CORE and Project Impact.
This work is based on three Healthy Aging Pillars – priorities that were identified through extensive research, community consultations and recommendations, and learnings uncovered through 12 Better at Home Communities of Practice (COPs) facilitated across the province:
- Increase physical activity: Physical immobility and lack of leisure activity are related to social isolation and loneliness. One of the Healthy Aging Strategy’s goals is to increase physicality to help older adults remain socially connected and active as they age.
- Reduce social isolation: The Healthy Aging Strategy aims to keep seniors mentally engaged in their communities, therefore reducing feelings of social isolation and social frailty.
- Maintain and enhance independence: Through provincial investments that maintain and enhance seniors’ independence, the Healthy Aging Strategy strengthens United Way’s commitment to providing home and community services that encourage self-determination.
The Community Based Seniors’ Services (CBSS) sector is broad and diverse, and to ensure the work of Healthy Aging by United Way remains relevant and working toward the goals of the sector at large, a number of community accountability groups have been convened to guide and support the work on a variety of fronts. The CBSS Leadership Council, consisting of older adults and service providers, serves as a consultative and governance body for the work of Healthy Aging by United Way. A Municipal Caucus, consisting of locally elected officials and municipal staff, has been convened to champion the CBSS Declaration, partnerships, and support at the local government level. The Healthy Aging Provincial Reference Group acts as a strategic body bringing together policy makers, senior officials and leaders from across the province, representing key populations as well as different geographical regions. The BC Seniors Funding Table is a group of funders who are working to coordinate investments, funding models, criterion, evaluation, and the strategic funding direction of the CBSS sector. Collectively, these accountability groups are working toward supporting increased capacity and sustainability of the sector to address the growing needs of BC’s aging population.
Provincial Working Groups
To advance key sector and capacity development priorities, provincial working groups have been created for a number of priorities areas identified through Raising the Profile outreach, the Healthy Aging Summit, and more recent consultation feedback, as well as opportunities such as current interest and efforts of various partners and stakeholders. These include:
- Higher Needs/More Isolated Seniors grants program
- Nutritional Supports
- Interfaith and Intercultural Communities
- Seniors Community Action Committees
- Rural/Remote Communities
These working groups are working to identify priorities and develop activities aimed at addressing needs in their subject areas. In addition, an Information, Referral, and Personal Advocacy community of practice has been established to share information on programs, policies, and practices, relevant resources, and opportunities for training, coordination, and collaboration.