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Expanded call line to help B.C. seniors during COVID-19 pandemic

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 9:12 pm PDT

FILE - B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says seniors need help with additional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. 2-1-1 number and website can be reached anywhere in the province

Seniors ability to live alone has been strained by COVID-19: advocate

New services assists with virtual and wellness visits, pickups and deliveries, as well as cooking meals

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie announced Thursday an expanded call line and website to connect seniors needing help during the coronavirus pandemic with those willing to respond.

The B.C. 2-1-1 number and website (bc211.ca) can be reached anywhere in the province, whether for help picking up or delivering groceries or medications.

Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced, as part of B.C.’s emergency COVID-19 response plan, $50 million for the United Way of the Lower Mainland to bolster seniors’ supports at community service agencies.

“Because, as we all know, especially seniors, we all need to stay home to be safe,” he added. “But they need support in doing that. We can’t let social distancing become isolation.”

Mackenzie said seniors are particularly worried about COVID-19 because they are most at risk of developing health complications.

“And they are, frankly, afraid if they get it, they will die,” she added.

Mackenzie said seniors rely on friends, family, and neighbours to visit them, shop for them and make meals, pick up medications, and drive them to medical appointments.

Their ability to live alone has been strained, she added, as have their relationships during the outbreak.

Seniors are more likely to live alone, and less likely to be connected to Facetime, Skype, and Zoom, so Mackenzie said they need better support.

The province is providing funds to expand 2-1-1.

“You can now call it from anywhere in the province and you will reach a live operator,” Mackenzie said.

The number is backed up by a website, B.C. 2-1-1.

The service will manage calls, matching up those who want to help seniors in their communities with those in need, assisting with virtual and wellness visits, pickups and deliveries, as well as cooking meals.

The province is also increased funding for the Better at Home program, delivered by 68 community agencies across B.C., to ensure core services for seniors are met during the crisis.

Mackenze said 24 of those agencies have been designated for COVID-19 responses specifically, to help increased demand matching volunteers with seniors.

She hopes the new initiatives will help relieve stress and anxiety for seniors.

“My message to seniors is simple: please do not be afraid. But please stay home and let us help.”