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Having a house in a community doesn’t always mean that you feel like you belong there. Jim Drake found out what it means to truly be a part of the Squamish community when he retired from his commuting job and started volunteering.

At first, he helped out at the Squamish Food Bank, where he made many friends and contacts, including Christina Rupp who eventually became the Better at Home Coordinator here at Sea to Sky Community Services. When the 2020 pandemic hit, the health orders put in place to protect seniors also had the impact of creating more isolation. Access to health care became harder for many, and healthy, active seniors such as Jim were cut off from their socially connective volunteer positions.

Over the next few months, while the world adjusted to this ‘new normal’, Jim stayed in touch with Christina, and got adjusted to the idea of becoming a driver for the Better at Home program at Sea to Sky Community Services.

Sea to Sky Better at Home offers services such as light housekeeping, transportation, grocery shopping, friendly visiting and minor home repairs. The purpose of the program is to make it easier for seniors to stay in their own homes, remain independent, socialize and stay connected to their community.

Drivers like Jim help seniors to make sure they get to their medical appointments and are not relying on a transit system that can’t meet their needs, or doesn’t exist, as is the case in Pemberton. Even if a senior has access to public transit, it can be difficult to use. Sometimes a transfer is necessary, and there aren’t always clear, safe sidewalks to every front door.

“I have a few “frequent flyers”, who ask for me regularly,” says Jim. “I am a good driver, I’m good with one-on-one conversation and I’m prompt. One of the worst things that can happen is missing an appointment. Sometimes they’ve already had to wait six months to see a specialist, and missing their time slot might mean waiting another month or so, which, at this stage in life can be critical.”

While the Sea to Sky region is world-renowned for its beauty, its fresh air and its trails, there are downsides to living here, which Jim understands.

“A big drawback is the high cost of living. Groceries, utilities, those costs are quickly outpacing pensions.”

Seniors represent a growing population in the Sea to Sky Corridor. In Squamish, the portion of the population over 65 grew by more than 28% since 2016. In Whistler, the over 65 population grew by 51%, and in Pemberton by 48%. The recent United Way report Aging in Uncertainty highlighted that an increasing number of seniors in BC are facing food and housing insecurity.

At Sea to Sky Community Services, we are aware of the challenges that many seniors face when just managing day-to-day needs. We also know how important it is for so many seniors to be in their own home for as long as possible. This is why our staff and volunteers are so devoted to connecting seniors with essential services such as transportation and house cleaning.

“We’ve been so lucky to have wonderful drivers like Jim, but we need more, especially in Whistler and Pemberton”, says coordinator Christina Rupp. “In addition to travel expenses, we are also really struggling to meet the costs of cleaning services, which have risen substantially due to inflation”.

Cleaners who work with Better at Home clients offer more than just a cleaning service – they offer companionship, a sense of security, and their regular and recurring visits can sometimes lead to identifying other areas where seniors need support.

There is a growing crisis for seniors, and programs such as Better at Home are struggling to meet the rising need. Your donation to the Better at Home program can make an enormous difference in supporting the dignity of aging in your own home by helping to cover the rising costs of travel to appointments and essential cleaning services.

Please help us to SPARK compassion in community by supporting this important program! Donate today!