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Healthy Canadians Grant Spotlight: Nourishing our Seniors at Home

Seniors helping seniors is the theme of an innovative program started in Vancouver, British Columbia, thanks to a Healthy Canadians Grant. Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, a community group that provides services for everyone from seniors to babies in a culturally diverse population, used their $10,000 grant from the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Foundation to start their Nourishing our Seniors at Home (NOSH) program. The program uses older adults from the community to prepare nutritious soups to be delivered to isolated seniors in the area.

The program serves a dual purpose, not only ensuring that vulnerable seniors in the community have access to tasty and nourishing food but also providing valuable skills training for older adults who wish to re-enter the workforce. Many of the seniors participating in the program live alone, have a low income and have difficulties with mobility, and as a result it is extremely difficult for them to access food. The soup deliveries ensure that the seniors are eating properly, and the program also provides much-needed social interaction on a regular basis as the volunteers visit with the seniors when they deliver their food.

In addition, many older adults in the community who are retired find themselves needing to return to work for economic reasons, or some simply enjoy the social connections and feeling of contributing positively to society that work provides. The NOSH program helps these seniors re-join the workforce by building their confidence and offering skills training and experience to help them become more employable.

Wendy Braun is a registered practical nurse and a case worker with the Cambie Older Adult Mental Health Team in Vancouver. She says she has witnessed firsthand the social isolation and lack of quality nutrition that affects many seniors in the community. “This past winter I had several frail clients who were severely hampered by the weather, who on occasion were almost completely out of food. Poor nutrition contributes to increased frailty and even hospitalization for some of these vulnerable seniors,” states Braun. She says that groups such as Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House “are working amongst our seniors to try to preserve their dignity and their function to help them thrive in their own homes as long as possible.”

The program launched in November 2018, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Seniors receiving the soups report looking forward to the weekly visits and conversations with the volunteers as much as they appreciate receiving the food. The senior volunteers have expressed appreciation not only for the skills training but also for the chance to give back to their community in a meaningful way. It is a win-win program for all involved and one that Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House hopes to expand so more seniors in the community can benefit from this innovative initiative.