Justine Keirn, executive director of Valley Community Services Society, is heading to the Provincial Summit on Aging on Nov. 6 – 8 to share the success of the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors (TAPS) a community-based program developed in Creston.
The summit brings together leaders from community organizations, older adults, caregivers, academics, funders and government representatives to connect and collaborate on key issues related to aging in B.C.
Keirn is one of over 350 seniors’ advocates attending the summit hosted by United Way and the Community-Based Seniors’ Services Leadership Council.
“The summit is a great opportunity to connect with other people doing similar work,” says Keirn. “It can sometimes be isolating for those of us working in small communities. These events bring us all together to learn and strengthen our services.”
For almost 15 years, Valley Community Services has been the umbrella organization under which TAPS has operated.
In 2005 Valley Community Services stepped up to provide administrative and governance guidance, while widespread community collaboration, fundraising and volunteerism attested to the need for – and value of – the TAPS program for vulnerable seniors.
TAPS offers seniors engaging activities in a group setting while maintaining their independence. Participants enjoy art, singing, music, physical activity, meals and outings, based out of the seniors’ centre at the Creston and District Community Complex. Seniors receive a phone call every morning to choose which activities they want to attend and to arrange transportation to and from the centre.
Keirn says these three simple program components can be life-changing.
“This program is unique because of how much quality time seniors can spend together, and with other community members, but with the freedom to return home every day,” said Keirn. “It’s a wonderful way to help older adults stay active and engaged in their communities, but happy and healthy at home, too.”
The program is especially critical in Creston, where adults over 65 represent 29% of the population, compared to only 18% across B.C. on average.
Creston’s population over 85 years old is 3.4%, compared to 2.2% of the Canadian population. (Figures are derived from the province, Statistics Canada, Office of the Seniors’ Advocate, and the Interior Health Authority).
Advocates can see how TAPS programs generate countless benefits for both participants and the local community. They say seniors build strong social connections and maintain their health, while caregivers receive valuable respite. They also believe programs like these reduce costs to local health care providers.
It’s no surprise TAPS became a model for other communities in B.C. after a boost from United Way. The program was praised for not only other service providers but of government representatives and funders.
Now TAPS programs will be strengthened or launched in communities across B.C., with support from United Way of the Lower Mainland and the Ministry of Health.
“We believe every older adult in British Columbia has the right to age with dignity, at home and in their own community,” said Kahir Lalji, Provincial Director for Population Health at United Way of the Lower Mainland. “That’s why we’re proud to support and invest in agencies like Valley Community Services Society, and to share their innovative program across the province.”
“We’re proud to see the TAPS model take root in more communities and look forward to sharing countless other successes from the community-based seniors’ sector, at the summit,” said Lalji.