During the holiday season, a Foothills-based non-profit wants to make sure that as many seniors as possible can feel joyful and loved.
Shoppers Drug Mart in Okotoks has a Simply Compassion Advocacy Society Christmas tree, decorated tags bearing the name of 83 local senior citizens. Simply Compassion executive director Debbie Dunwell said patrons are encouraged to take a tag and purchase a gift; all instructions for the program are on the card, she added.
Raffle tickets are also being sold for ‘spa baskets’ put together by local businesses. Ticket sales end on Dec. 17 and all funds raised will go towards purchasing sensory items for the Simply Seniors project.
“That brings that momentary joy, that they know that the community is out there thinking about them,” Dunwell said of the Christmas initiatives. “We just want to keep extending that and make it long term to improve the quality of life for seniors and bring that joy year-round with different initiatives.”
She added that supporting the most vulnerable individuals is truly a community effort.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility to do better for seniors,” Dunwell said.
Consideration and care for elderly citizens, especially those living in congregate care homes, was brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dunwell has been working to improve the lives of Foothills seniors for more than three years.
“I’ve seen the challenges and the issues that seniors face and what families face. So that is why we started this non-profit, was to bring awareness, to let people know that that’s what was going on,” she said. “What we saw during COVID was isolation and loneliness heightened because families couldn’t be there, but we saw that long before.”
Dunwell, who has a background in long-term and palliative care, said that Simply Compassion became a non-profit at the end of 2019 and was a very new organization when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020.
This has made it difficult to carry out some of their programs, including in-person visits to homes by volunteers and reading from elementary students. The hope is that 2022 will be the year they can launch full-force.
“It’s been a real challenge to do some of the things we wanted to do, but we’re still going and raising funds, and hoping that this new year will be the year that we get to move on some of those other items that we do,” she said.
The group, made up of volunteers, works through many different avenues to increase the quality of life for local seniors. Dunwell said volunteers will have phone visits and students write letters and make cards, picture frames and wreaths to be delivered to individuals in care. They also provide education to staff and families and advocate on behalf of seniors.
Dunwell said that Simply Compassion has worked with Tudor Manor and Sandstone Lodge in Okotoks, Seasons Retirement Communities in High River and Silver Willow Lodge in Nanton.
The organization is also in the midst of a pilot project, called Simply Seniors, where volunteers go into a care home and provide education, as well as sensory items for individuals with dementia and other forms of memory loss.
For more information about the work that Simply Compassion Advocacy is doing visit its website.