Saanich Parks and Recreation aims to address older adult social isolation with a new program called Neighbours Engaging in Activities Together (NEAT).
This program, offered in partnership with Island Health, Oak Bay, Victoria and Sidney, is designed to build self-confidence, connection and provide a sense of belonging to participants. Many older adults live alone or face various barriers to participation. Barriers can include everything from financial, transportation, physical, emotional and social challenges. With Island Health recreation therapists and recreation staff, participants develop skills to overcome these perceived barriers, make sustainable social connections and are introduced to a variety of activities.
According to a 2012 Statistics Canada report, nearly one in four seniors reported they would like to participate more in social activities, while a 2008/09 Canadian Community Health Survey found that one-fifth of seniors felt left out, isolated from others, or lacked companionship.
The NEAT program combats that isolation. It is offered at apartment buildings or local meeting spaces where people already feel comfortable. Participants get to know each other in a relaxed space with fun ice breakers and exercises. They are introduced to resources and activities in their neighbourhood and after two weeks of leisure education the participants choose activities they would like to experience.
These activities can be anything from art to sports and everything in between. Each of the following weeks include an activity of the groups’ choice. They will be responsible for their attendance and finding their own transportation but will feel supported by the group. Emerging leaders are encouraged to take on an “ambassador” role and help make the group sustainable after the program ends.
Applications are now being accepted for the next set of programs. Contact Julie Wallace, Saanich Parks & Recreation, Community Services, at 250-475-5408 or Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.