United Way announces first 18 sites being considered for its Better at Home program

September 19th, 2012

United Way of the Lower Mainland (UWLM) today announced the first 18 sites that may eventually be home to a Better at Home program – the ground-breaking initiative to provide seniors with support services that will allow them to remain in their own homes longer. Over the next year, a total of about 60 Better at Home sites are expected to be announced across the province.

As part of Improving Care for B.C. Seniors: An Action Plan, the B.C. Government provided the United Way with $15 million to establish Better at Home, a program that offers simple services such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, friendly visits, yard work, home repair, snow removal and transportation to appointments. The services are non-medical in nature, and are supplemental to those services provided by community health workers, such as personal hygiene assistance and help with medical needs or moving around.

Michael McKnight, President and CEO of UWLM, said Better at Home is based on a successful pilot project that United Way carried out in five B.C. communities in partnership with the Ministry of Health and local non-profit agencies.

“We know that most seniors, if given the choice, would prefer to live independently as long as they can in their own homes, among friends and neighbors,” he said. “This program allows that opportunity for seniors who are healthy overall, but require modest help with a few tasks. We want to prevent isolation and loneliness, especially among those who are most vulnerable, while helping seniors maintain their quality of life.”

Minister of Health Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid said the initiative is a key part of its Seniors Action Plan to respond to the needs of seniors and an aging population in B.C.

“Today’s announcement of the 18 communities builds on our commitment to support healthy aging and help B.C. seniors remain independent for as long as possible,” said Dr. MacDiarmid. “Partnering with United Way of the Lower Mainland allows government to take advantage of their knowledge and expertise to help keep seniors in their own homes because that is where they want to be.”

Community consultation will start to get underway in the 18 sites after Thanksgiving and carry on through the fall and winter, with some communities expected to offer services to seniors as early as January. The balance of the approximately 60 sites will undergo consultation, program development and implementation on a rolling basis.

The eventual establishment of a Better at Home program in each community depends upon the community itself wanting to participate and a non-profit agency stepping forward to lead the development and delivery of services. The selection of potential communities was based on demographics, local conditions, and consultation with provincial health authorities, regional United Ways and local agencies serving seniors.

McKnight said seniors are front and centre in the process, and help determine the services that best meet their needs in their community. The local agency creates the operational structure to register seniors and offer the services, which will be delivered primarily by a network of volunteers. Fees for services will be based on an ability to pay and local market conditions, and in some cases will be offered free of charge.

Ralph Sultan, Minister of State for Seniors, said the Better at Home program concept is something that seniors themselves warmly welcome. He added that it offers promise for helping to avoid the high financial and human cost of entering institutional care before it is required.

“Helping seniors stay in their home benefits seniors and their families as well as the health system,” said Sultan. “The key here is that the program focuses on non-medical home support – such as transportation, housekeeping, home repair, yard maintenance, friendly visiting, and information and referrals.”

The first 18 sites identified for a potential Better at Home program are:

  • Quesnel
  • Esquimalt
  • Cowichan
  • Langley
  • New Westminster
  • Vancouver (West End)
  • Kamloops
  • Sechelt
  • Parksville
  • Abbotsford
  • Tri-Cities
  • Surrey
  • Richmond
  • North Shore
  • Penticton
  • Port Hardy
  • Williams Lake
  • Cranbrook