Organization Summary: Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre (SORC) is a non-profit society, working to enhance the lives of seniors in Kelowna, BC. SORC helps aging, isolated seniors to maintain their dignity and independence, and to stay connected to their community and each other by providing support and linking them to other needed services. They provide information on a wide variety of resources and services to support the non-medical needs of older adults in the Central Okanagan.
Program Summary: Seniors Centre Without Walls (SCWW) is a new program in the Okanagan that began in Fall 2020 as a response to the growing need for social connection among seniors who may feel isolated or alone, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a service offered through Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre with the help of their many volunteers. SCWW offers a variety of social programs using the telephone or zoom to help people age 65+ connect to their community and participate in engaging conversations and activities. This program is a great way for older adults to participate in activities and connect with others.
Program resources: SCWW was set up by a practicum student working with the SORC for the summer and was piloted by a 4th year Social Work student. The Centre is able to run the program on existing short-term funding, however, they are seeking further funding to maintain the program post-COVID. Many of the older adults who participate were very isolated prior to the pandemic, and will remain so afterward, due to complex health issues.
"Running this type of program requires a full-time staff member. Ideally, the coordinator is someone with a Social Work degree to ensure that serious issues participants may be experiencing are not gone unnoticed. Lack of in-person contact and the fact that most participants have been isolated for a long time and often have very complex issues can complicate participation for all," says Vi Sorenson, Executive Director of the Seniors Outreach and Resource Centre.
Program Impact: Through the dedication and commitment of their wonderful volunteers and dedicated staff, the participants have benefitted and experienced improved social connectedness through the Senior Centre Without Walls social telephone and online programs.
Participants have shared this impact:
- “I loved singing in our caroling session last week. Since then I have found myself humming songs throughout the house as I do my tasks. It makes me feel happy!”
- “I have enjoyed participating and connecting with others”
- “The Mindfulness session was so relaxing, I felt like taking a nap afterwards”
- “I have implemented the things I have been learning into my daily life”
- “I enjoyed all the activities, such as Bingo, Travelogue, Live Music, Brain Teasers, and more. Sign me up for the next session”
- “My life has become brighter since registering with Seniors Centre Without Walls”
- “I met new people that I laughed and shared with”
- “You made me feel welcome and comfortable”
- “SCWW has helped my self-esteem”
- “I now have so much to look forward to”
Adaptions to program due to COVID-19: Seniors Centre Without Walls has been able to not only adapt but thrive during a time of closures and restrictions. “The reality is that these services are long overdue in meeting the needs of seniors who find themselves at home either due to the current restrictions, or because of their mobility or other needs. By offering services over the telephone or online, it removes barriers to participation and allows the service to be run no matter what happens around us, thereby reducing stress and anxiety as participants can still remain involved,” says Vi.
An additional benefit of the program is the ability to bring other existing community activities such as YMCA exercise, tours of the Kelowna Art Gallery, and Syilx Storytelling, right to the participants in their own homes. SCWW have been able to reach a diverse group of participants and form an engaging community for all.
Meet one of the SCWW Volunteers:
Neil is a SCWW Volunteer host for Travelogue, Languages and Live Music. Neil joined the volunteer team several months ago and is always willing lend a hand!
Recently Neil shared his thoughts about volunteering with the Seniors Centre Without Walls program:
“I am a people person and enjoy the interaction with the participants in Seniors Centre Without Walls. The seniors have lived life and have so many experiences they can share. These experiences have made them much wiser and I respect them and what they have lived through. You cannot fake interest, you have to genuinely care and be interested in their lives. I truly want to develop connection and relationship with the participants of SCWW.”
For more information about this organization and the SCWW program, click here.