age-friendly, covid-19

Emerging from the Pandemic:   Older Adults Reimagine a More Age-friendly Community

The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in this community and around the world, rightly focused on protecting lives and preventing the spread of the virus. Unintended consequences however, have had an  detrimental effect on older adults who are  feeling the full impacts of economic, mental and physical effects of social isolation,  challenges to our human rights, neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities and the trauma of ageist attitudes and discriminations.

It is true, the global pandemic has severely impacted everyone; however, it has disproportionately affected older adults. We are at higher risk of contracting the disease, and more likely to develop severe infections and die from it. In Canada, close to 90% of COVID-!9 related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 60 and a staggering 80% of COVID-19 deaths were in individuals who lived or worked in long term care facilities or other types of care homes. Social isolation, the closing of many parts of society, and the fear and anxiety associated with the pandemic are pronounced for seniors. Many older citizens face severe challenges meeting their basic needs, such as shopping for food, medications, and obtaining needed health and community care. Some live in potentially dangerous environments where elder abuse is a potential factor. Older adults living in care facilities have been denied access for months to those who love them and any contact has been reduced to electronic communication and window waves.

“Much research has shown that human connection is a key determinant of health, and COVID-19 restrictions, while necessary, don’t really justify complete isolation from family, caregivers and friends. “

The challenges that older adults are experiencing are not new and few are unique to the virus. But COVID-19 intensifies and complicates everything and exacerbates the many challenges faced by older adults. The most distressing are the ageist stereotypes and discriminations that have become more visible in the last few months. Ageism is defined as a process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old. It means that older people are devalued and their human rights compromised. Indeed, older adults have become the focus of this pandemic and have been isolated or paternalistically (though well-intentioned) protected without their own choices being respected.

“People above the age of 65 are often assumed to be a homogeneous group of “older people” or “Seniors” who are frail, lack independent decision-making capacity and need to be protected. The reality is strikingly different.”

There are three distinct generations between the ages of 60 and 100. Close to 90% live independently and make significant contributions to society. For example, the restrictions on older adults’ abilities to engage in meaningful volunteer activities is impacting community organizations at a time when many need increased hours of volunteerism to meet the challenges of the pandemic. In the same way that infants, children and youth have very distinct characteristics, so too do different older adult generations. One size does not fit all.

The Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) tackles issues of importance to older adults and has continued to support older adult throughout the pandemic. We are uniquely positioned to communicate directly to citizens and public officials about what is at stake and what might be improved. SCOA can propose solutions that would improve policies and programs for an aging population and create a better quality of life for older citizens.  We hope that the spotlight on the experiences of older people during this crisis will bring stronger commitment to working toward a more age-friendly community.

SCOA has adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Age-Friendly Cities” model as a critical way to support older adults to age positively in Saskatoon. In an age-friendly city, policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people to age actively by recognizing the wide range of capacities and resources among older people, anticipating and responding flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences, respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices, protecting those who are most vulnerable and promoting their inclusion in and contribution to all areas of community life.

SCOA’s multi-year Age-friendly Saskatoon Initiative revealed three key issues that hundreds of older adults in Saskatoon identified as critical in ensuring a good quality of life:

  • Ageism is the greatest barrier older adults face.
  • Older adults want to have input into policies and programs that affect them.
  • The entire community has a role to play in creating an age-friendly environment.

As evaluations are carried out to examine COVID-19 pandemic responses how do we ensure that the voices of older adults are heard, that older persons are appropriately protected in the future, that we do not overlook how extremely diverse this age group is, how incredibly resilient we are, and the importance of the multiple roles we have in society, including as caregivers, employees, volunteers and community leaders? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Examine all policy decisions and community advisories through an age-friendly lens. SCOA has developed a tool just for this purpose. Policies need to be made with us not for us.
  2.  Begin to create and foster living environments that truly support quality of life in all its aspects from access to good health care to high quality food, recreation and community building. Ensure that staffing and care standards in both community and long term care are elevated to the same level of importance in the health care system as hospital care.  
  3. Begin right now, not after the pandemic is declared over, to develop a detailed provincial senior’s strategy that will re-examine and act upon the learnings of the pandemic on eliminating ageism, developing age-friendly communities and attending to mental health and self- determination.  Create a full spectrum of options for those who want to live independently, or with home care support, assisted and intermediate care living alternatives, and those who require complex care. Ensure that older adults lead/participate in this work.
  4. Open a public discussion about ethical responses and protection of human rights during this pandemic crisis and how as a community we can foster an age-friendly community that supports positive aging for all citizens.

SCOA’s hope is that by articulating these challenges and opportunities, we might move more quickly to minimize the negative outcomes of COVID-19, maximize positive changes that might be possible and redouble our efforts to improve our aging society in ways that benefit people across the life span.  We will emerge from this pandemic having paid a high price but more resilient and determined than ever. Now is the time to take bold action, create communities and caring environments that promote positive aging: something all of us deserve.

Candace Skrapek
Shan Landry
Jane McPhee
Past Presidents, Saskatoon Council on Aging

covid-19, Health Services

Managing COVID-19 stress and anxiety 

Older adults, 65 years and older, are at higher risk for severe illness following infection from COVID-19. Anxiety is a normal response to the current situation. Here are some tips to help you to remain calm and balanced as this public health crisis evolves.

cooking hands handwashing health
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

1. LET GO
Tell yourself you need to accept there are things beyond your control. Focus on things  you can control, such as washing hands, covering your mouth during coughs and sneezes, social distancing and non-essential trips to the store.

2. UNPLUG YOURSELF 
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news and social media. Constant information overload about the pandemic can cause more anxiety.

3. KNOW THE FACTS
Seek information from reliable news sources only. Limit checking in on the latest news to short, defined periods. While you might plan to go online to get quick updates to stay informed, before you know it, you’ve spent hours jumping from one story to the next and becoming more anxious than ever.
Government of Saskatchewan
Government of Canada 
World Health Organization 

4. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Try to keep things in perspective; notice and challenge your thoughts if they may be extreme or unhelpful. Remind yourself that most people experience mild illness from the new coronavirus, many people will pull through, and this crisis will end.

5. SELF-CARE ROUTINE 
Look after  your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy such as reading, crafts or playing with pets.

6. STAY CONNECTED
Connect with others and lean on social supports. To flatten the curve we must practice social and physical distancing but you can still stay in touch by text, phone calls, social media, virtual chats e.g. Facetime or Skype.

 7. SEEK HELP
If you notice that your symptoms of anxiety (in association with COVID-19 or otherwise) are causing you distress or interfere with your ability to function normally, reach out for mental health supports available to help you through this difficult time.

Mental Health Supports

Saskatchewan HealthLine 8-1-1

Mobile Crisis [City of Saskatoon] 24-HOUR CRISIS LINE PHONE: +1 (306) 933-6200

Walk-in Counselling – Family Service Saskatoon
Phone counselling will be offered during our regular office hours – Monday – Friday,  9am – 5pm. Call (306) 244-0127 within those times for more information.

Canadian Mental Health Association – Saskatoon Branch Inc. is continuing to provide support, counseling, system and community navigation and referral for ALL who need it during the COVID 19 pandemic. Staff are available to talk to you, connect on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or just over the phone, about anything. Services are free and confidential, for everyone.
Phone – 306-384-9333 – leave a message in their general mailbox and a Mental Health Worker will get back to you ASAP.
Email – info@cmhasaskatoon.ca – they check this continuously and someone will get back to you right away.

Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support
Wellness Together Canada provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed.

HOPE FOR WELLNESS HELP LINE Call the toll-free Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat. 

CRISIS SERVICES CANADA 1-833-456-4566 Available to all Canadians seeking support. Support is also available by text at 45645, from 4 PM to midnight EST

References:

Government of Saskatchewan: Mental Health Resources
Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
The Globe and Mail: Tips for Managing Anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic

Blue Minimalist Branding Infographic

 

covid-19, Events, Health Services, Important Notices, Services

COVID-19 Resources for Seniors

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COVID-19 Resources for Seniors
A one page handout with essential phone numbers and information

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Community Directories

Face Masks

Fitness 

Forever in Motion Home Fitness and Leisure Resource Guide- PDF
Forever in Motion Facebook Group  Join the group for fitness videos, health and wellness information and more

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Grocery Delivery Services 

YXE Community Response to COVID 19 – Humans Helping Humans
Volunteers help isolated seniors with grocery delivery and other errands
Hotline 306-361-4357     
Email yxecovid19help@gmail.com 
Join Facebook Group 

CHEP GOOD FOOD DELIVERY 
CHEP’s food access programs provide home delivery. Delivery is FREE! Saskatoon only. To order, message us, call 306-655-4575 or email marketsoutreach@chep.org

NEW HORIZONS DELIVERY FOR SENIORS! CHEP Good Food is designated Food Security Lead for Seniors by United Way of Saskatoon & Area as part of the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program. Through this program, we are able to deliver ‘good food’ to Seniors FREE OF CHARGE. 
1. By phone (306-655-4575), or
2. Use 
the online order form. 
New Horizons for Seniors Order Form. The link can also be found on CHEP.org by scrolling down through Good Food Delivery.

Salvation Army – Grocery and Pharmacy Delivery
 Please email us at covid19response@salvationarmysaskatoon.org or phone (306) 477-2363 and inform the operator you are in need of assistance.

White Buffalo Youth Lodge – 306.653.7676  Check for current services available – lunch and supper delivery

World Sikh Aid Foundation Volunteers deliver food free of charge to people who can’t get out or afford to buy their own groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phone 306.880.3898 | 306.715.3366 | 306.241.6537

Grocery Stores that deliver

Where to find Saskatchewan sourced food essentials during the pandemic
How to Buy Groceries without going to the store Information Sheet by Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism


Health Services

Lumeca
A Saskatchewan based app that gives Saskatchewan residents free, confidential access to health care professionals through their mobile devices

Self-Assessment Tool: COVID-19 – Government of Saskatchewan


Mental Health Resources


Pets


Pharmacies

  • YXE City Cabs Free Prescription Pick-Up for seniors: (306) 444-3333
  • Medicine Shoppe [any location] – Free prescription delivery
    https://www.medicineshoppe.ca/ 
  • Earl’s Pharmacy – Free prescription delivery 306-244-1531
  • London Drugs – a program to help seniors who may be isolated and in need of medications.  Caregivers and family members can email SupportSeniors@LondonDrugs.com 
  • Shoppers Drug Mart – Fee delivery of medications to your home and help answer your questions via phone. Phone local store[s] for details.

Shopping


Support Services 

  • Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan: Phone/email support to people with dementia, family, friends 306-683-6322; Dementia Helpline at 1-877-949-4141
    email helpline@alzheimer.sk.ca
  • Family Service Saskatoon –Phone counselling
    Phone counselling will be offered during our regular office hours – Monday – Friday,  9am – 5pm. Call (306) 244-0127 within those times for more information.
  • Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations [FSIN] 1-877-626-6448 covid@fsin.com
  • Saskatoon Food Bank – 306-664-6565 Emergency Food Hampers
  • Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service – Emergency service (306) 933-6200
  • Sage Seniors’ Resources – home health and mobility needs
    Phone: 306-955-7243 Email: sageteam@sasktel.net
  • Saskatoon Council on Aging: Telephone Visit Program – SCOA will match you with a friendly volunteer to chat over the phone.  To register phone 306.652.2255
    Funded by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, in partnership with United Way of Saskatoon and area. 

Technology

Bolt Mobile – Operation Lifeline 
Old phones are being refurbished and sanitized and then donated to people without phones who are isolated in seniors’ homes and hospitals. Currently available to hospitals and care homes only. Donations accepted. If your hospital or care home facility is interested in receiving donated devices, please contact us today by calling 306-668-4653. .

Utilities

SaskPower
SaskEnergy
SaskTel – COVID-19 Update


News Releases