BSOSS' Seniors Helping Seniors Help Themselves by Linda Comba
“Growing old is not for the faint of heart!” I’m sure that many of us have chuckled over this aphorism. That is, until we are old and experiencing those life altering changes and losses which are so overwhelming. Those annoying aches and pains give over to serious physical health concerns. Our social support network shrinks as family and friends become less available to us through death and incapacity. The opportunity to make new connections diminishes. The meaningful roles which defined our purpose in life, our self-worth, are no longer open to us.
Yes, facing these changes and losses can be unbelievably challenging, and coping with them and moving on does take courage. And sometimes it takes a listening ear and a helping hand to overcome the feelings of loss, loneliness and depression associated with widowhood, serious health problems, social isolation, increasing personal dependence and overwhelming caregiving responsibilities.
Since our inception in 1987 as a non-profit organization, the Burnaby Seniors Outreach Services Society, through our peer counselling and related activities, has been providing emotional support and encouragement to older citizens of Burnaby and their family or friend caregivers, assisting them to enhance their quality of life, to develop problem management strategies, and to maintain the greatest level of independence and dignity possible.
BSOSS programs include:
. Senior Peer Counselling, a free, confidential one-to-one supportive counselling to seniors facing emotional stress as a result of life changes. It is not professional counselling nor does it replace it.
. Reconnections, a facilitated peer supported group experience of self-discovery and personal growth which assists seniors to develop or enhance the skills and confidence they may need to find purpose or reconnect into the community after they have experienced a significant loss.
. Burnaby Family Caregivers Project, a free programme which assists seniors or boomers who are caring for an elderly family member or friend, providing education talks, a support group, phone consults, and an annual resource and information fair, in order to improve the quality of life for the person for whom they are caring and to reduce caregiver stress.
In addition, we provide community outreach, education, information dissemination and referral when necessary to more appropriate community agencies and professionals. As peer volunteers or members of the Board of Directors, seniors have the opportunity to do something personally enriching, meaningful, useful and stimulating.
Although the BSOSS programmes are coordinated by gerontologists, our premise is that seniors are uniquely qualified to provide support and encouragement to other seniors who are struggling to cope with significant losses and changes in their lives. Extensive skills training combined with a warm and caring personality and the knowledge, insight and wisdom gained from a lifetime of coping with loss and change give the peer helpers the understanding, empathy and patience to assist others.
The key to successful peer helping is the training we provide all our support volunteers in the fundamentals of empathic listening and counselling techniques, problem solving methodology, age related issues and community resources. The opportunity to learn and do something meaningful and rewarding is also of immeasurable value to the senior peer volunteers. They take away with them effective interpersonal and life skills to use for themselves and share with those with whom they come in contact on a daily basis.
If you are or if you know a senior or family caregiver in need of the support our peer volunteers or professional staff can provide, or if you are a senior wishing to do something meaningful in your community, please contact us at 604-291-2258 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available on our website: www.bsoss.org.