Fraser Lake residents in their golden years are enjoying more home support and away fun, thanks to local group.
Autumn Services – Society For Senior Support in Fraser Lake celebrated the third-year anniversary of its drop-in community centre — with over 30,000 visits — this spring.
Since last fall, the society also offers home support services in addition to its on-site social and educational offerings, as a pilot rural project for the government-funded North Central B.C. Better At Home Program.
The Fraser Lake community had no centre nor support for seniors when the non-profit organization first started with no base six years ago, said coordinator Elaine Storey.
At the time, Storey was helping her parents transition from independent living to residential care in Vernon, where a wide spectrum of services, housing, and facilities were in place, she recounted.
“I thought back to Fraser Lake,” Storey said. “And I saw a need for more care and support for seniors.”
She chose to name the society “Autumn”, the time of the year when leaves start to brown.
“To me, it explains the process of aging,” she said.
Through the BAT program, the society offers home support services such as light housekeeping, yard work, home repairs, snow removal, friendly visits, as well as transportation for groceries and appointments.
At its drop-in centre, it also hosts weekly and monthly social events, workshops for health, safety, and art, as well as provide technological services such as printing and obtaining government forms online.
“Here we don’t have an government office, in Vanderhoof there is one,” Storey explained. “Many forms need to be obtained online; are they going to learn to use the computer at 80?
“If we don’t help them it’s a trip out of town.”
Oftentimes, the centre serves as a social hub for community members to gather over coffee or a baked good. “They are not eating very well…they like to eat with people,” Storey said. “Just being with other people is valuable.”
To help ease isolation for seniors, the society also publishes and distributes a free monthly newsletter called Phraser Connector, featuring local community columns.
“I think people who live in rural areas are isolated,” she said. “Many who live by the lake have dial-up and can’t get their news online.
Through community effort, centre turns to home away from home
For Eileen Malchow, 84, the centre is “the best thing since sliced bread,” she said. “To me, it’s the best thing that has happened to me in my senior years.”
When the society first moved into its centre three years ago, Malchow and May Reid, 87, supplied lunches for volunteers during renovation work bees for two months.
The centre was “just light bulbs hanging from electric wires from the ceiling,” Reid recalled. Community members donated electric and plumbing work, as well as all furnishings including paint, light fixtures, toilets, fridge, stove, tables, and chairs. A 10-foot board room table from the Endako Mine now serves as a communal dining table for the centre’s visitors.
“As soon as Elaine said this is what she’s doing…we brought food so we can keep [the volunteers] here,” Reid said. “‘Cause if they go home they don’t come back to work.”
For them it’s a social hub beyond gatherings at local restaurants or homes.
“There was nothing for seniors,” Reid recounted. “There’s carpet bowling, but it’s more for younger seniors. When you come here there’s more people, there’s always someone coming in.
“Sometimes, I feel like I just want to put on my jacket just to find someone to talk to.”
Two years ago, Malchow and Reid hosted, at the centre, a Red Hat Society Convention for the region, gathering 80 women of all ages for a two-night event celebrating life-long social interaction and bonding.
The centre also hosted birthday parties, wedding receptions, and community group meetings.