One of the best things about the Pan-Canadian seniors social isolation projects is built-in permission to learn quickly from what’s not working and adjust program elements accordingly. Along with careful monitoring of activities, budgets and results, this ‘fail forward’ principle allows projects to make timely responses to seniors evolving needs. It also supports sharing of knowledge between the collective projects based out of nine Canadian cities.

The Pan-Edmonton Group Addressing Social Isolation of Seniors (PEGASIS) recently held our annual discussion with our funder, the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors, to review what we’ve learned and adjusted for the benefit of our local seniors. Here are just a few examples:

Seniors’ Centre Without Walls is a free telephone-based program for seniors who are homebound or find it difficult to access regular community centres in person. Operated by Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network, the program has expanded, at no extra cost, to include additional participants living outside the originally planned Edmonton area. This expansion shows how the program could be cost-effectively scaled across Alberta, growing the cooperative network of similar programs that exist across North America.

The Seniors Assisted Rides project (Drive Happiness) originally planned to invest significantly in specialized software, but they soon recognized that fancy computer applications were not the most direct route to better serving their riders’ needs. Instead, they have increased one-to-one personalized phone support for hundreds of new riders, and they have modified their ticket tracking system to improve convenience and efficiency.

The Specialized Outreach and Case Finding project has allowed Sage Seniors Association to enhance their existing individualized services to some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable and isolated seniors. Several quick responses to community-based needs resulted in resetting priorities beyond original plans. These include support groups for Bhutanese and Russian seniors, peer support for grandparent caregivers, and the seeding of several Men’s Sheds in Edmonton.

All seven PEGASIS core partner organizations have unique examples of adapting to emerging needs and community feedback. Review the slides and audio recording from a conversation with the New Horizons for Seniors Program to learn more.

Collectively, the group has provided information, support, and/or interventions to over 5000 seniors from widely varied backgrounds and circumstances. We continue to diligently seek ways to sustain positive impacts beyond the April 2019 initial funding end date.

Written by: Cheryl Newton-Skirrow, PEGASIS Evaluator