Better at Home in Penticton

New United Way program aims to make it easier for Okanagan seniors to stay in their homes longer

After a successful pilot project in Osoyoos and five other communities, Penticton has been chosen to be one of the first 18 participants in the Better at Home program.

Better At Home is a new program through United Way with the goal of allowing seniors to live longer in their own homes surrounded by friends, family and neighbours. The program, said United Way director Riley Gettens, was developed in collaboration with the B.C. Ministry of Health, which has allocated $15 million to it over the next three years.

“All of our United ways are working together to bring this to individual communities where the need is the greatest,” said Gettens. Better at Home is expected to be spread to 60 communities across the province.

Working with local non-profit agencies, the program provides seniors with services such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, friendly visits, yard work, home repair, snow removal and transportation to appointments.

“What we have done is taken some of that funding and hired a community developer, that’s Myrna Tischer,” said Gettens. “She is going to be doing some research in Penticton to find local non-profit agency to deliver the Better At Home services.”

In Osoyoos, one of the findings of the pilot project findings was that seniors there needed access to transportation, since the community has very limited public transportation. So a van was purchased to help alleviate the problem. But Gettens expects that Tischer will discover different needs for Penticton.

“It’s definitely a Penticton focus; that is the point of the program being rolled out into different communities,” said Gettens. “The solutions they might find here in Penticton may not work in a different community. A different community might have a different need.”

Tischer will be gathering information and seeking input over the next few weeks about how Better At Home can benefit Penticton seniors. To help generate that dialogue, there will be two showings of The Remaining Light, a documentary about how society cares for seniors, followed by a discussion about the local issues facing older adults trying to continue living independently. The first showing takes place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 in the Okanagan College lecture theatre, then repeats on Nov. 14 in the auditorium at the Penticton Library/Museum complex.

“It’s a really grass roots initiative to help out people living in our communities and that is always the biggest benefit,” said Gettens. “Rather than being told from the top down what we need, it is kind of nice to have some opportunity to give input.”

At the end of November, a community and key stakeholders meeting will be held to present the project findings, solicit additional input and help determine Penticton’s readiness to implement the Better at Home program and support the selection of a lead agency. Implementation of the program is expected to begin in April 2013.

For more information about the program www.betterathome.ca. Anyone wishing to provide input is invited to contact Myrna Tischer at betterathomepenticton@gmail.com or 250-492-0065 to leave a message.