Creating caring communities in Dawson Creek
Residents enjoying a warm meal in Southview Apartments' shared amenity space
Ruth Veiner spent almost her entire life on her farm just outside Dawson Creek and could hardly imagine living in the city. Just as she was about to move into Southview Apartments to start a new chapter in her life, her husband passed away, making an already tough transition even harder.
“It’s a loss that you learn to live with. You never get over it, nor would I want to,” Ruth said.
With 24.6% of seniors aged 65 and above now living alone, loneliness and social isolation are considerable challenges that many must contend with every day.
“What a lonely time, if we only had ourselves. What a lonely hollow feeling that would be,” she said. Ruth considers herself lucky to have her grandson and family visit regularly, something some other residents lack.
In addition to the emotional impact of loneliness, chronic isolation has serious repercussions for seniors’ health and wellbeing. Lonely seniors are more likely to experience physical and mental decline compared to their more social peers. Multiple studies have also suggested that loneliness is a key risk factor for the onset of dementia, depression, and an increased risk of mortality.
After living in Southview Apartments, operated by Dawson Creek Society for Community Living (DCSCL), for a little over a year now, Ruth has found comfort in her newfound community.
“I find it a supportive community and I feel safe here,” she said, adding, “The atmosphere is so friendly.”
To help bring together the community of Southview residents and foster an even stronger sense of social inclusion, DCSCL set up a meal program to offer tenants a warm lunch, a take home supper, and a much-needed opportunity to connect with their neighbours.
With support from BC Housing as part of its COVID-19 response, and Northern Health, DCSCL worked to license their kitchens and hired a part-time chef to cook lunch for residents of Southview Apartments and Rotary Village. At first the meals had to be delivered due to the pandemic, but once health orders allowed, the residents were able to eat with each other on a regular basis.
Chef Audrey visits each building once a week and cooks up a meal for the residents to enjoy together in their amenity space, while still adhering to physical distancing protocols. For Ruth, this is about more than just nutritious meals.
Chef Audrey preparing take home suppers for residents
“There’s no enjoyment in food when you’re not sharing it,” she said, adding, “we all came from a community. I’m sure most of us were very active in our communities. When you move there’s a big empty bubble with no community for a while. But with this program you can feel a part of something."
The program currently serves 45 seniors between the two buildings, with an additional approximately 15 meals going to seniors in the wider community. DCSCL provides 4,500 meals per year through the program, which encourages social interaction in a comfortable, easily accessible, and familiar setting. The meals also include an educational component that informs seniors on a variety of topics including phishing scams, pandemic updates, and information related to elections.
Southview Apartments is one of several BC Housing funded developments in Dawson Creek, which range from supportive housing such as the 32-unit My Home Place, to various affordable seniors rental housing.