Grant to launch seniors co-op

An elder care co-op is about to get off the ground in the Cowichan Valley thanks to a huge amount of local interest and a $35,000 grant.

"We think it will be very successful," said Roger Hart, secretary of Cowichan Co-operative Connections, one of the drivers of the project along with Volunteer Cowichan.

Some of the homework has already been done, as the two groups hosted a series of public meetings to gauge interest, which turned out to be "overwhelming".

"We were surprised and very pleased," said Hart. "But then when we reflected on it…with hindsight we shouldn’t have been quite as surprised as we were."

The Cowichan Valley has a large seniors population at present and those numbers are only predicted to get higher in the future.

"What I think touched a nerve with people was that this allows them to continue to live in their own home and not have to go into residential care and suffer some of the problems we hear about all too often in the media," he said.

This is because the co-op is owned by the people who use the services, Hart explained, and therefore quality of care is the top priority.

"It avoids the situation that we heard of recently where a care facility just fired all of their staff," he said, referring to Duncan’s Sunridge facility, which is in the midst changing ownership, and issued layoff notices to all of its employees. "If you’re a member of an organization that’s not going to happen."

The co-op will help seniors with day-to-day tasks that can become more difficult as people age so they can continue to live in their own homes and still remain connected to their communities. Services that may be included are friendly visiting, transportation to appointments, yard work, minor home repairs, snow shoveling, housekeeping and grocery shopping.

Hart is confident of success.

"Not only can a co-op deliver a high quality of care it can do it in a fairly cost-effective way because there is no profit that has to go to some external shareholders that are driving everything in the interest of profit," said Hart.

The funding, which comes from the Caring Co-operatively Elder Care Project, a national program launched last fall with funding from the federal Social Development Partnerships Program and the Vancouver Foundation, will be used to do business and organizational planning, consultations with stakeholders and incorporation.

The group is not letting the grass grow under their feet when it comes to making it formal.

Hart said they want to move quickly on incorporation, likely shortly after a meeting on the project May 2. The group is excited that this is the first grant from the program awarded in British Columbia.

"We hope with this funding we can make the Cowichan Valley a model not only for British Columbia but the rest of Canada on how to do things right," said Rob Douglas, president of Cowichan Co-operative Connections.