Cobble Hill Village had the intention of responding to the results of an Age-Friendly Community Project study by creating a mixed-use development that included affordable housing, but were soon informed by seniors included in the study that this was not necessarily what the Cobble Hill seniors wanted or needed.
The Age-Friendly Community Project was conducted in the Cobble Hill Village (Electoral Area C of the Cowichan Valley Regional District [CVRD]) on Vancouver Island in late 2012. The study investigated issues affecting seniors and it became clear that no services, activities, or housing facilities were available specifically for seniors in Cobble Hill, except for one small adult day care operation. There was no seniors centre or place for seniors to gather and socialize, and when no longer able to stay at home, seniors were forced to move to Duncan or Victoria for assisted living or multi-level care facilities.
When the proposed affordable housing project was tabled for the participating seniors to discuss, it was quickly discovered that what seniors really wanted were opportunities to build social connections in their own community. The voices of the seniors were heard, and the South Cowichan Seniors Volunteer Group (SCSVG), with funding support from residents of Cobble Hill through the CVRD and the Farmers Institute at Cobble Hill, took the initiative to respond by providing an accessible Seniors Drop-In Luncheon program.
Allan Garside, Coordinator of the South Cowichan Seniors group, recalls the moment when the needs of the seniors became clear: “despite our own interesting ideas, the most important lesson learned has been to listen to the very seniors that we created South Cowichan Seniors for… It is most important to let consensus determine a group’s direction, as it reflects a collective wisdom rather than some preconceived desired direction.”
Partnerships & Stakeholders
- South Cowichan Seniors Volunteer Group
- Residents of Area C (Cobble Hill) through the Cowichan Valley Regional District
- Shawnigan Cobble Hill Farmers Institute and Agricultural Society (Farmers Institute)
- Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation
Summary of the Process
Instead of following the initial agenda of the age-friendly study and affordable seniors housing plans, the South Cowichan Seniors Volunteer Group listened intently to the requests of the seniors from the community. In doing so, a concept and proposal was prepared and submitted to the CVRD for funding for one-year of operation of the Seniors Drop-In Luncheon. The plan outlined the goal of a fully functional Seniors Drop-In Centre to be achieved in two phases; first, the establishment of a regularly scheduled Seniors Drop-In with lunch served, and second, progression to a Seniors Drop-In Centre.
On March 11th, 2013 the first Seniors Drop-In Luncheon was held where a robust lunch was served in the venerable old Cobble Hill Hall, home of the Cobble Hill Fair and the Farmers Institute. It was an incredible success as over 70 seniors attended and filled the hall with chatter and laughter.
Two partnerships have been of vital assistance to the Drop-Ins: The Farmers Institute and the Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation. After a presentation was made at one of the Farmers Institute meetings, their membership granted free-use of the Cobble Hill Hall for a year. The Cowichan Seniors Community Foundation assisted in determining what the Drop-In Seniors want in the way of activities or entertainment. While short presentations are sometimes made on topics relevant to seniors such as Safety In the Home, or entertainment such as music from local schools, the seniors enjoy the opportunity to simply gather, talk, laugh and in general, socialize. Just over a year later, the Seniors Luncheons continue to be held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.
Key Outcomes & Impacts
- There is now a regularly scheduled Seniors Drop-In, with lunch served, in Cobble Hill. This is an extremely affordable social event, as admission is by donation.
- Looking forward, the SCSVG is developing a Sustainability Strategy for these lucheons by cultivating relationships with other organizations, looking at funding alternatives, attracting new volunteers, and in general, moving ahead with organizational development.
- The South Cowichan Seniors luncheons continue to grow in attendance. Many seniors have stated that their lives have improved because of the opportunity to socialize. As the seniors get to know each other they look forward to the opportunity to socialize over a hearty meal enthusiastically. It has become an important event for many.
- Not only have seniors built strong social connections, but some have even stated that they no longer rely on certain types of medication to help them live a happy, healthy life.
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