Selkirk College Student Reaches Out to Rural Seniors

Selkirk College Student Reaches Out to Rural Seniors

Jul 16 2014
This year's Teck Serv Applied Research Internship Project has put the focus on a project that is attempting to make the challenges of rural life for seniors much more acceptable and enhance lives in the process.

Nelson CARES Society and the Age Friendly Community Initiative have hired a Selkirk College student intern for a research and outreach project called Reaching Out.

As the name suggests, the project that will “reach out” to isolated rural seniors to talk with them about their concerns, challenges, and service needs. The project will also connect the seniors to organizations that can help them meet these needs.

Funding for this project was made available through the Teck Serv Applied Research Internship Project, sponsored by Teck Trail Operations through the Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute at Selkirk College. The goal of Teck Serv is to provide annual support for Selkirk College students to undertake a community-based research project in the West Kootenay/Boundary region.

Selkirk College Social Service Worker Program student Dana Burgess speaks with a Nelson area senior as part of the Reaching Out project which she is taking part in as student intern.

The Struggles of Rural Life

Rural seniors can become isolated for a number of reasons, including distance to services, lack of transportation, poor health, or the absence of family and friends nearby.

“By sitting down and talking with rural seniors in the region, we can find out if they’re having difficulties and, if so, why,” says student intern Dana Burgess. “For example, a rural senior might be having trouble getting to medical appointments because she can’t make the long drive to town anymore. With this information we could tell her about the available transportation options in her area, and perhaps help her advocate for an appointment time that fits with the regional transit schedule.”

The Reaching Out project is working in collaboration with Nelson & District Seniors Coordinating Society, North Kootenay Lake Community Services and Regional District of Central Kootenay (Area E). These organizations will help the intern to reach seniors in rural communities surrounding Nelson, including the areas around Salmo, South Slocan, Balfour, and Kaslo. In this way, the project will benefit the organizations that provide services to seniors by connecting them to this hard-to-reach population.

“Seniors’ organizations throughout the region are grappling with the issue of how to get services to isolated rural seniors. Having an intern dedicated to identifying these seniors and their needs will help us to overcome this challenge,” says Age Friendly Community Initiative Coordinator Corrine Younie.

Intern Gaining Valuable Experience

When rural seniors become less isolated, they participate more in social and recreational activities, and access health and community services; as a result their health and well-being improves. Burgess will refer seniors in need to collaborating organizations that can provide them with needed services and resources.

The project also provides valuable experience for Burgess, a student in the Social Service Worker Program at Selkirk College. A diverse group of project mentors will be guiding and supporting her throughout the project term.

“We’re delighted that Dana has found such a great placement,” says Terri MacDonald, Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development, Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute. “In addition to sharpening her applied research skills, she’ll be working one on one with vulnerable seniors and with community organizations, gaining practical community and social development experience.”

The project will run through the summer, wrapping up at the end of August. Burgess’s research findings will be released to the public in September. In the meantime, seniors living in the above mentioned rural areas who are interested in talking with Dana about their experiences are invited to contact Burgess at 250.352.2708, extension 11.

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