CITY OF SURREY: FOCUS ON SENIORS’
The City of Surrey Mayor’stask force, Focus on Seniors’ (FOS)is a successful model of collaborative community partnerships working together to address the issue of elder abuse and neglect in the community. With a population of 462,000 residents, 12 % or 55,000 of those are over the age of 65 yrs and are subject to the possibility of experiencing elder abuse, either themselves or someone they know. The Focus on Seniors initiative is unique in that it stems from the City of Surrey’s Crime Prevention Strategy objective to “prioritize actions to address those most vulnerable” and that it focuses directly on education and awareness about elder abuse and neglect and encourages open discussion with support service professionals, community partners and interested individuals including seniors, caregivers and their families. The Focus on Seniorscommittee includes approximately thirty members representing various city departments, community resource and provincial government agencies, safety services (police & fire) and related community groups and individuals who have come together with passion and resources to facilitate community forums in various communities throughout the city. The committee has organizedsix forums since June 2008,including one culturally specific event hosted by the Grand TajBanquet Hall in Surrey and two more forums are planned for the remainder of 2010, with one being again hosted by the Indo-Canadian community in Surrey. Given the nature of this collaborative and comprehensive approach to address the issue of elder abuse and neglect within the context of crime prevention makes the Focus on Seniors initiative worthy of consideration for the UBCM Community Excellence Award, Best Practices, Civic Engagement.
Focus on Seniors Forum:
Each forumfeatures three main components including a keynote speaker, presentations from industry professionals and a panel discussion. The event is free of charge, is open to all ages and includes free shuttle service from across the city and lunch which also contributes to the social nature of the event.
Keynote speakers have included the Mayor of Surrey, City Counsellors and the Public Guardian and Trustee. Industry professionals includingthe Public Guardian and Trustee, a Wills and Estate Lawyer, Police, Fire, Parks, Recreation and Culture and Surrey Public Library staff. Each provide a short presentation about their roles and services available to seniors and help define and guide dialogue about the rights of seniors’, the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect and how we can each assist the elderly in our communities live and age in a healthy, sustainable environment. A panel discussionthen followsthe viewing ofthe video “Finding a Future for Ellen” which illustrates the reality of elder abuse.
This video tells the story of “Ellen” who leaves her own home to live
with her daughter. Once she is living with her daughter she is isolated
and her daughter gains access to her money. This video is a good
discussion starter about how to recognize abuse and how to help someone
in Ellen’s situation. (
The video is a moving and thought provoking representation about the reality of elder abuse and through the eyes of Ellen, a recently widowed senior, portrays the most common forms of abuse including isolation, physical abuse, neglect, emotional and financial abuse. The film always generates emotion, some tears and apassionate discussion about defining and recognizing abuse, what actions should be taken and supports that are available in our community. Joyce Schmalz is the actress who portrays Ellen in the film and she is also a long time advocate for the rights of older adults and a key member of the Focus on Seniors Committee.
In June of 2006, the City of Surrey implemented a comprehensive Crime Reduction Strategy featuring four strands or approaches to crime reduction with each playing a key role in the larger picture of creating safe and healthy communities. The four strands include:
- Prevent and Deter Crime
- Apprehend and prosecute Offenders
- Rehabilitate and Reintegrate Offenders
- Reality and Perceptions of Crime
The Focus on Seniors Committee of Council began as a response to the fourth strand which calls for “action to address the most vulnerable” and notes that “groups such as seniors or youth tend to feel more vulnerable...” and recommends that the city “partner with Community Action Groups to take action in priority areas to address the fear of crime.” (City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy, p 33)
Subsequent to implementation of the plan, the 2008 Crime Reduction Strategy annual report stated:
Involvement With Seniors
The City convened a committee to raise awareness about elder abuse.
In June 2008, with the support of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society,
the Focus on Seniors Committee organized a forum, which was the first
in a series of community-based forums on elder abuse. The Seniors‟ Functional
Table with staff from the Parks, Recreation and Culture (PRC) Department
has been holding Safety Forums for seniors at the Seniors Centres and
RecreationCentres in partnership with the RCMP. The PRC Department also
holds aSeniors Wellness Fair once a year that includes information about health,
wellness and safety and leisure opportunities for seniors.
The report highlights the complimentary role the Focus on Seniors forums play in building on the active, social, cultural and educational opportunities already available in our community by reaching out to isolated seniors and the community at large in educating family, friends, caregivers and seniors about elder neglect and what can be done help seniors at risk.
The Focus on Seniors task force committee is comprised of approximately thirty representatives from the City of Surrey, community resource agencies, provincial ministry staff, safety and security services
(Police& Fire) and community lead boards and associations.
Focus on Seniors Partners
City of Surrey Council – Barbara SteeleSurrey Public Library
City of Surrey, Parks, Recreation and CultureBC Centre for Advocacy Support
City of Surrey, Social PlanningRCMP – Community Police
Surrey Crime Prevention SocietyOffice of the public Trustee and Guardian
TranslinkSurrey Fire Department – Safety and Education
Options / Surrey Community Resource SocietyFraser Health
Come Share Society Surrey Seniors Planning Table
The unique success of the Focus on Senior’s initiative is in the establishment of a clear purpose and in being born out of the city’s Crime Reduction Strategy which strengthens the collaborative nature of the committee. Each member and agency are richin resources and expertise that focus together in a common direction with a powerful impact. Each forum has been a learning experience for both participants and facilitators from the committee who, each time leaves with a better understanding and awareness about the issue of elder abuse as well as new relationships with partner agencies and individuals..
Goals and Accomplishments / Public Participation:
Six Focus on Seniors Forums have been held to date in various diverse communities across the city with two more events scheduled for 2010, one in Central City and one at the Grand TajBanquet Hall. In addition to the forums, strong partnership links have developed amongst the committee partners and the importance of education about elder abuse has developed new initiatives with the Focus on Seniors events being the catalyst. Examples of new initiatives include:
- The City of Surrey is developing a Seniors Abuse and neglect policy in response to a potential elder abuse situation that was witnessed at one of the city’s recreation centres and with a recommendation from some of the FOS committee members. The policy and subsequent training will provide guidelines and direction for staff witnessing abuse or neglect of seniors.
- OPTIONS Surrey Community Resource Society has partnered with the City of Surrey to provide crisis phone line training to Seniors' Centre Volunteers. The “People Helping People” volunteers regularly phone members about activities at the centre and the additional training allows them to recognize signs of neglect and isolation and provides them with tools to address concerns appropriately.
- The City of Surrey secured a United Way Grant to create a Seniors’ Resource Hub at the Fleetwood Community Centre and are currently partnering with the Surrey/ White Rock Come Share Society to train volunteers to provide resource and referral services for seniors to assist them in living independently in a safe and healthy environment.
Participation at the Focus on Seniors forums has consistently increased with the most recent event in Guildford filling to capacity of 140 participants and another 30 on the waitlist which has lead to the need to secure larger venues for future events.
Participant survey results from the most recent forum held in May 2010 indicate a strong appreciation for the information and discussion about elder abuse. 72% of the ninety respondents indicated they were extremely satisfied with the event and that having a lawyer and a speaker from Fire Services was particularly appreciated. Viewing the video ``Finding a Future for Ellen`` and the subsequent panel discussion as well being able to speak with Joyce Schmalz, the actress and advocate for senior citizens was also a highlight.
Other participant comments include:
``The session was great, I think our adult children should attend``
``Made me think about updating my financial materials``
``Recently retired, want to get as much information as possible``
Community Awareness about and participation in Local Government Actions:
The six forums held to date have seen over six hundred surrey residents take part in a day long forum and discussion about the important and rarely discussed issue of elder abuse. In addition to the direct delivery of information to participants, the panel discussion format allows a sharing of ideas and perspective about elder abuse, its causes, signs, symptoms and actions to both address abusive situations and to protect against such situations from developing.
Participants and partners also share information and highlight resources and services provided by civic government including Parks, Recreation and Culture programs and services, Surrey Public Library resources such as reading aids, in home deliveries and educational programs, Surrey Fire Service home Inspection program (free smoke alarms) and discussion about how to become involved as a resident. i.e. The United Way supportedSurrey Seniors’ Planning Table, and community centres advisory boards who each advocate on behalf of seniors for civic improvements to programs, services and the built environment, such as improved sidewalk designs and road signage.
Transferability of the Focus on Seniors service model:
The Focus on Seniors service model is transferable as an initiative to raise awareness about and provide resources to address elder abuse. The key to success will be having civic support from all levels and departments and then to include community partners and individuals to collectively develop and event that in both engaging and participatory for all and that reflect the needs and demographics of the community.
Accountability to Community Citizens:
By generating awareness about the issue of elder abuse and neglect, an expectation develops that abuse will not be tolerated and that services and resources will be available and accessible to help seniors age in a healthy and safe environment. An example of this can be seen in the development of a seniors' abuse and neglect policy by the Parks, Recreation and Culture department that was previously described.
Team Development and Innovation:
A team approach and collaboration is critical to the success of the Focus on Seniors initiative in that elder abuse is presently embedded within the fabric of our community and is represented in many ways. Addressing the issue from as many perspectives as possible including the legal perspective, the social and health perspective and the community safety perspective are examples of how usually divergent agencies such as the Public Trustee and Guardian, Parks, recreation and Culture Staff, Fire and Police Services work together with a common understanding and supportive nature to address elder abuse. In this manner the Focus on Seniors initiative is an innovative and focused approach to raising awareness within the community as well as within and between civic services and resource agencies and residents. Sharing training opportunities between service agencies that donot normally do so is an example of an innovation that has come out of Focus on Seniors.
A successful model of collaborative teamwork between civic departments and community resources, and with a task force committee supported by the City of Surrey Council and with roots in the established Crime Reduction Strategy, the Focus on Seniors Committee Forums are a worthy consideration for the UBCM Community Excellence Award, Best Practices, Civic Engagement. There have been six successful events held to date at various locations throughout the city and requests are developing to hold additional forums and to continue to educate and inform all ages about the issue of elder abuse and to provide access to resources and support systems to allow older adults and seniors live in a healthy, safe and active environments.
Partners and References
BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support.
City of Surrey, Parks, Recreation & Culture.
City of Surrey Fire Services.
City of Surrey Social Planning.
Come Share Society. Seniors’ Support Services.
Diverse City Community Resources Society.
OPTIONS Services to Communities Society.
Public Guardian and Trustee.
RCMP Community Safety Officers.
Surrey Crime Prevention Society.
Surrey Public Library.
Surrey Seniors Planning Table.
“City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy”
“Finding a Future for Ellen”, Video Recording
One hundred and thirty seniors take part in the panel presentation and discussion at the Guildford Recreation Centre in May 2010 about elder abuse and neglect
UBCM Community Excellence Award application: Civic Engagement