Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors try to up the karats on locals’ golden years

With almost two decades as a counsellor, Helene Long has helped hundreds of Chilliwack’s seniors

For almost 20 years, the Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors (SPC) group has been doing what it can to brighten the lives of local senior citizens whose golden years may be tarnishing. And since the beginning, Helene Long has been one of the group’s driving forces.

A primary school teacher for decades, Long and her family have been living in Chilliwack since the mid-70s, when they visited Cultus Lake for a camping trip. “We thought, ‘Wow, this is a nice place to live!’ and moved to the area in … 1974.”

Long and her husband raised two children in the city, and eventually her parents moved into a downstairs suite contained within her home. And although she didn’t know it at the time, a later outing at the mall with her mother would ignite a passion within her that would see the pair help hundreds of seniors.

RELATED: Making a difference in your retirement

“There was a lady in the mall whose name was Pam Wilson,” recalled Long. “She was looking for people to go and meet with seniors and my mom said, ‘We’re going to do that!’ She wanted to do it and I was her ride, so we did it.”

Teaming up with Wilson, Long and her mother travelled to Abbotsford and were trained as senior peer counsellors. “My mom was (always) my inspiration and still is” even though she’s passed away.

“It was really quite intensive,” said Long of the program. “It could be a first year university course.”

Registered in 1999, the Chilliwack Senior Peer group works tirelessly at ensuring the most vulnerable of our seniors aren’t left alone for too long and have people in their lives who can help them navigate what may be a very challenging time of their lives.

“It’s a time of your life when you give up a lot,” said Long. “For many in their later years, families have moved and friends have passed away … leaving many people very lonely and socially isolated.”

RELATED: Chilliwack Senior Peer Counsellors in need of male volunteers

Although the counsellors receive training in a variety of subjects—Alzheimer’s, dementia, financial issues, and medication misuse, to name a few—Long says one of the main jobs of counsellors is to befriend their clients: “Sometimes they just need somebody to talk to.”

Laughing, Long recalled the story of a lady who had approached her at a seniors’ home. “She wanted to be paired up with somebody, but somebody her own age. And when I asked her how old she was, she replied 102!

“I said I didn’t have anyone in that age bracket, but asked if she’d be happy with somebody in their late 80s or 90s,” continued Long, still smiling at the memory.

The Chilliwack SPC group currently has about 55 volunteer counsellors, explained Long, but says they could always use more volunteers. “We see probably about a 100 seniors each year … and this is a really good way to get to know somebody.”

RELATED: Volunteers needed to lend an ear to Chilliwack seniors

Ranging in age from their late 30s to their 60s and 70s, Long said Chilliwack’s senior counsellors are from “every walk of life. And you know what? We have seniors from every walk of life, too.”

And besides attending the training course, becoming a counsellor is a pretty easy process, says Long.

“We ask that you show up, do a criminal record check, and … we (also) ask our counsellors to spend at least a year with a senior (but) often find they don’t want to give that senior up afterwards,” said Long, who’s created lasting “client-friendships” with many seniors.

“We have gotten couples back together, helped with nursing home (transitions), do lots of grief counselling, and help plug people into the places and programs that can help them,” said Long.

But what people appreciate the most, says Long, are the human connections that are made. “(Clients) will say, ‘I was so lonely and I’m not lonely any more!’ … or people will call and (tell us how) a counsellor is just such an angel for their (family member).’ It’s so rewarding.”

The next training session for counsellors will start the first week of September. Anyone interested in volunteering is urged to call the office at 604-302-4071, or visit their website at ChilliwackSeniorPeerCounsellors.org.


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Drugs and cash seized by Chilliwack RCMP

One man was arrested and drugs were seized in the early hours of Oct. 12, police said

Heavy turnout at advance poll in Chilliwack

Some voters waited as long as two hours

Around the BCHL: Youth trumps experience for Chilliwack and Salmon Arm

Around the BCHL is a look at goings-on in the BCHL and the junior A world.

Retirement of Chuck Stam brought out kind words and fond goodbyes

Tuesday was the last council meeting for a councillor who has served Chilliwack for almost 20 years

Chilliwack City Watch member helps RCMP catch drunk driver

Volunteer flagged down officer after watching vehicle driving erratically on Yale Road

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

B.C. teens fined for possession of pot on legalization day

The pair received $230 fines for smoking pot in public

Trio of Saint Bernard find their ‘forever home’ after story goes viral

Edmonton Humane Society had put out the call to adopt Gasket, Gunther and Goliath

Nurses deliver 24,000 anti-violence postcards to B.C. Health Minister

Nurses delivered thousands of postcards to the front steps of the B.C. legislature, each carrying a message for violence prevention

Openly gay, female priest of B.C. church defying norms

Andrea Brennan serves Fernie at pivotal time in church’s history

Nova Scotia works to stop underage online cannabis sales

The government cannabis retailer moves to prevent workaround of online-age verification

Foster care is ‘superhighway to homelessness,’ B.C. youth advocate says

Katherine McParland grew up in foster care and lived on the streets

Carr, Morneau off to China next month to deepen commerce

Carr says Canada and China aren’t embarking on formal free trade talks

Edmonton girl guide sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store

On the first day cannabis was legal a young entrepreneur capitalized on cookie sales

Most Read