Seniors Centre Without Walls
Seniors' Centre Without Walls
Seniors' Centre Without Walls (SCWW) is a new, free, interactive telephone-based service program that connects Surrey Seniors, ages 55 and over, in a variety of recreational activities, health and wellness talks, and friendly conversations. The SCWW focus is to help seniors, who are isolated and find it difficult or are unable to participate in social activities in-person, to stay socially connected. Though it did not exist prior to COVID-19, the SCWW had been in the planning stages since January 2020. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been particularly effective in connecting seniors who are social distancing and who may not have other means to socially connect. They can now easily make those connections by picking up the phone in their own home. Sessions typically are 30 to 40 minutes long and are run weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, and some are one-time feature presentation events. Participants pre-register by phone or email and all necessary program materials are mailed or emailed to them. Reminder phone calls are made for every program to confirm attendance.
SCWW is an initiative of the Surrey Intercultural Seniors Social Inclusion Partnership (SSISIP) Network, funded in part by the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors. The SISSIP Network aims to create greater awareness, appreciation, and acceptance of different cultures to make Surrey an intercultural and socially inclusive community for seniors.
Program Impact: Though it is too soon to measure the impact of SCWW on Surrey seniors, it can be expected, based on reports from other SCWWs across Canada, that there will be a positive influence on seniors' levels of loneliness and connectedness, especially those who are and will remain homebound after COVID-19. SCWW provides unique opportunities to build friendships and re-develop social skills in a safe, relatively anonymous environment. Seniors may engage in a large variety of educational programming offering new information and learning new skills. At this point in the program, participants have been very receptive and greatly enjoy their engagement with the programs and discussions with their peers, all while safely isolating.
Strengths and Challenges: The success of Seniors' Centre Without Walls is attributed to the wide variety of programming that is made possible through multiple partnerships with other community organizations. The City of Surrey in particular, as a fellow member of the SISSIP Network, has been a major ambassador for the SCWW. They assist with advertising, as well as creating and facilitating six unique programs for seniors to enjoy. The SISSIP Network and partners, along with other members in community, also assisted in boosting the profile of the SCWW among seniors across Surrey.
A challenge for SCWW will likely be capacity in the future. While many of the SCWW programs are facilitated in partnership with staff from other organizations, the management, administration, and coordination of SCWW is overseen by one person. With the number of participants in the program growing, there may eventually be a need to limit both the number of participants and the geographical area SCWW serves. However, this could be an opportunity for growth in seniors' services in BC, as we are seeing a shift in ways seniors are accessing services, including the increased use of digital, virtual, and remote meeting places. Seniors Come Share Society SCWW is open to working with other communities in BC to scale out the SCWW model of engaging seniors remotely while in their own homes.
How Has the Program Adapted During COVID-19? SCWW in Surrey was in the planning stages beginning in January 2020. Delivery of the program has not been restricted during COVID-19, but the sudden closure of almost all public facilities prompted the program to increase its delivery from the original plan of running three programs a week to times to ten programs a week, Monday through Friday. In the three weeks since it began, over 40 seniors have registered and this number is expected to increase up to 100 -150 members over the next year, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.