The Senior Connector program was introduced by the Seniors Come Share Society in 2009 to connect seniors with local programs and services, to help them fill out simple forms, and to be a starting point for navigating government and other systems. Before the Senior Connector program was introduced, similar work was being done by Outreach Workers who were funded by the Fraser Health Authority. After the funding for these positions was cut, the decision was made to introduce the volunteer Senior Connector program in order to continue to provide this needed service.
The Senior Connector Program offers drop-in information and referral at ten locations in Surrey and White Rock including at senior centres, libraries, recreation facilities and other community locations. How frequently there is a Senior Connector available at each site (e.g., once a week, twice a month, etc.) depends on the availability of volunteers. The program also responds to phone requests and provides in-home services for those who are not ableto easily leave their homes. Volunteers provide information on a range of issues such as housing, meal programs, groceries, transportation, caregiver support and income tax. For help with applying for government benefits and filling out forms, seniors need to make an appointment ahead of time. A volunteer lawyer is available by appointment to assist with wills, power of attorney and other similar basic legal needs. Come Share produces an annual Seniors Resource Directory (available both in print and online). The resource directory is over a 100 pages and provides a comprehensive listing of services for seniors in Surrey and White Rock (e.g., grocery delivery services, day programs, legal assistance, etc.) and is updated each year by a summer student. Copies of the Directory are distributed to various public locations and given out at health forums and seniors’ events.
The Senior Connector program is coordinated by a Program Coordinator who spends about one quarter of her time on this program and coordinates the 12 volunteers (most of whom serve as Senior Connectors and usually work out of a specific information and referral location. The Program Coordinator assists the volunteers with support as they need it with things such as phone calls, home visits and filling out forms. New volunteers receive extensive training that includes 5-7 information sessions held each February and March. As part of this training, volunteers practice relevant mock information and referral requests. There are also ongoing education sessions on various topics (e.g., Caregiver education, Income benefits, etc.), which are offered to both volunteers and the public.
The Senior Connector program budget is approximately $41,000 per year, with funding coming from Community Gaming Grants, fundraising, donations and other sources. The Cities of Surrey and White Rock are important partners for Seniors Come Share Society, providing them with space at different locations for their Senior Connector services. Seniors Come Share Society has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the City of Surrey about this use of space as part of a seniors services partnership.