Social Work Students Seek Safety Services for Seniors

Hi I’m Cassandra Tarfa, a St. Thomas University Social Work student. My colleagues, Amanda Mahar, Erin Sparkes, Julie Meyer, and I completed a social action project at David Coon’s Constituency Office. The project aims to assess the overall safety and wellness of the citizens of Fredericton and to assess the feasibility of developing a registry for older adults.

The idea for such a registry came out of recommendations from a symposium held by the Fredericton Age-Friendly Advisory Committee in 2014 and from David Coon’s community gatherings. One of the main concerns that came up was the need for a Vulnerable Person’s Registry. This need became obvious following Tropical Storm Arthur in 2014, when residents were left without power for extended periods of time, and some elderly and isolated people were left unchecked for days.

Our project started with a research phase of best-practices for assessing the implementation of a registry. We then completed a community assessment which revealed that several registries with broad coverage already exist in the city. The existing registries include individuals with mobility, vision or hearing difficulties; non-visible disabilities including communication, cognitive, sensory, mental health, intellectual disabilities or certain medication conditions; those requiring electricity for life-sustaining equipment; and isolated seniors who do not have a support network.

We wanted a better understanding of how vulnerable people manage during an emergency situation, and what resources they have or know about. Students organized and facilitated community meetings and administered a ten question survey that showed there is public support for a formal registry to assist during emergency response efforts, as well as the need to alleviate isolation through day to day engagement.

Our next steps were to determine what a registry would look like, who would be eligible, and how that would be determined, based on community resources. A new registry would target isolated seniors who do not have a support network nearby to assist them in the event of an emergency. The registry would be updated annually. To understand what resources are available in the community to support a registry, we convened a meeting with key stakeholders.

The stakeholders indicated that before creating an additional registry, the current registries and resource should be utilized. We identified three key objectives: education and awareness of the current registries; communication and information sharing regarding services offered by stakeholders; and consistency from all agencies regarding an emergency response. The stakeholders were receptive to these initiatives and to exploring the idea of a registry.

We created a resource flyer to raise awareness of the current registries and continue to work with the community, the Age-Friendly Committee, David Coon’s Constituency office and stakeholders to assess the potential of implementing a new registry in Fredericton. We hope the next group of students will move forward to secure funding and/or partnerships for the registry. For more information about the registry project and information on the current registries, please contact David Coon’s Constituency Office.