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Urgent need for Calgary seniors volunteer support during coronavirus pandemic

The Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society has put out a plea for more volunteers to help provide support for seniors during the coronavirus pandemic.

For more than 25 years, the non-profit organization has provided essential services for isolated or vulnerable seniors living in Calgary.

Many of the organization’s programs, such as providing transportation to medical appointments and drop-offs for food, medication, and toiletries at home require volunteers.

Fast-track process created to recruit urgently-needed volunteers

On March 20, the organization put out a call for more volunteers due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Annastasia Stevens, social supports manager for the Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society, said that seniors who didn’t need support before the outbreak now need it more than ever.

“Seniors are frightened and need reassurance and help to discern between good and bad information,” she said.

“They’re isolated more than ever because they aren’t supposed to leave their homes and are at high risk if they become infected.”

To help, the organization has created a fast-track process to screen and train volunteers quicker.

In some cases, Stevens said seniors may need up to three volunteers to meet all of their needs. One volunteer may need to phone them daily, another to deliver things like groceries. A third volunteer may need to drive them to urgent medical appointments that can’t be postponed.

“Calgary is an amazing community and luckily for us, many people want to help,” Stevens said.

“We’re expecting that a month from now, we’re going to be inundated by seniors who need support.”

Stevens anticipates they may need as many as 500 volunteers to manage the demand.

“Seniors will continue to need volunteer support when the outbreak dies down, so we will need a steady intake of volunteers going forward,” she said.

Calgary Seniors has also relaxed requirements for their programs all seniors get the support they need.

Responding to a variety of complex situations

Due to circumstances surrounding coronavirus, social workers from their SeniorConnect program can now respond to issues ranging from eviction, caregiver burnout, mental health, and many more outside of regular business hours.

“We had a lady with no heat because her furnace broke. A social worker is helping her apply for funds to replace it and we set her up with space heaters for the time being,” Stevens said.

“We also put a call out for donations towards the furnace replacement on social media.”

Calgary Seniors is also working with other agencies and community groups to coordinate a collective response and resources for seniors.

Steps taken to keep people safe, events cancelled

Due to the outbreak, the organization has cancelled several events, such as its annual gala and general meeting.

Stevens said that measures are in place to keep its staff, volunteers, and seniors they serve safe and healthy.

“We’re working remotely and over the phone as much as humanly possible. We still have staff in the office and we’re still responding to our clients and the public,” she said.

“It’s important to note that staff are really burning the candle at both ends right now.”

Many staff, including Stevens, have young children or elderly loved ones at home.

“We’re stretched trying to support our clients, volunteers, staff, and families,” she said.

“Like everyone else, we’re also feeling stressed and anxious about what’s yet to come and we’re trying to plan ahead as best as we can.”