Elder Service Project
Created November 17, 2011 by Crystal Kwan
“An elder is also a changemaker-someone who can lead by example, creating positive social change and inspiring others to do the same” –the elders.org
Calgary’s demographics are changing. The older adult population in Calgary is expected to double from 2006 to 2022. The older adult population is both growing and becoming more diverse. Many community organizations are aware of the shifting demographics, and are interested in engaging the older adult population, but realize that the traditional methods of working with volunteers don’t seem to work any longer. Older adults are interested in opportunities for meaningful engagement and aging with purpose, but often don’t know how to get involved in a way that will satisfy them...
In response our idea is to develop the Elder Service Project (ESP)! The ESP is based on successful “Service Corps” models in the United States and the Netherlands. It is designed for older adults (those 65+) and consists of two components: continuous service placement for participants to do meaningful work in a community organization and ongoing group support and training for participants.
The new project is aimed to enhance the quality of life of older Calgarians and support integrated communities that value elders. The commitments to support the Eldering process by integrating opportunities for lifelong learning and lifelong service. We will recruit 12 older adult participants (65+), who participate in 14 weeks of service that is split between group trainings and a community service placement. The curriculum design of the group trainings and parameters of the community service placements are built on the values of equality & anti-discrimination, social justice, collective action, community empowerment, group and lifelong learning, and elderhood & wisdom.
Group trainings will link older adults into a supportive and engaged community expanding the service experience beyond the traditional single volunteer working alone or at the edge of a community organization. The content of the group sessions provide community development tools, skills and opportunities for reflection and dialogue. Community service placements provide opportunities for the participants to put their ideas, discussions, and learnings into action—to create meaningful community development work. The benefits of this project extend far beyond the older adult participants. This project will also develop our communities’ capacities to engage older adults, encourage multigenerational exchanges and to build a community for all ages. When life-long learning is combined with civic engagement, the possibilities are endless!
Our first cohort of participants, begin their journey in February 2012, and will participate as an advisory board for the next phase of the project, further shaping the curriculum design to be relevant to the strengths and needs of the older adult population and our communities. Our goal is to create an alumni network, a network of elders to contribute to building a better community.
Our organization has program funding to implement this project, but we want to add an additional element. The ESP is an intense community based program of learning, reflection and work, and we are asking our participants to commit 10 hours of work each week, for 14 weeks. We learned from our work with older adults, that many face financial challenges and need to work part-time, even in retirement, to sustain themselves.
Many older adults have a wealth of experiences, insights and wisdom to contribute, but due to the financial realities of aging in an expensive city like Calgary they are unable to commit to these opportunities on a volunteer basis, so we hope to secure funding to financially support the participants, throughout the duration of their placement. The money would be offered either as grant for the participants or a living wage for the 10 hours/week. The money we are requesting from the AVIVA COMMUNITY FUND will allow older adults with financial barriers to participate in our project.
We are creating this project, because we believe in nurturing a community based approach to development. We also believe that older adults, with life skills and a wealth of knowledge and experience have much to contribute to developing a better society. Learning, growing, contributing and becoming is the business of all ages. The Elder Service Project supports the life- long learner to gather their wisdom to address the social issues and challenges we face in today’s world, beginning at the community level.
Please support our project and older adults to realize their passion for life-long learning and begin their journey as community developers!